Do you often feel frazzled? Frayed? Scattered, ungrounded, or airy? Or challenged to keep your focus and attention somewhere? Maybe you’ve even been classified as having ADD, ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, etc…?
Personally, I have a really sensitive nervous system and can feel ‘frayed’ pretty easily. I think my sensitivity is a special gift in a lot of ways ~ I appreciate that my awareness is able to pick up on so much. But also, I know I have to take special care of myself. I can easily get overloaded, overstimulated, and feel off-balance.
For those of you who can relate, I’ve put together a simple top ten list of ways to help nourish your nervous system.
This is actually something everyone can benefit from, especially in the winter months. The dark cloak of winter is a time to pull inward and hibernate. It’s a time to deeply nourish, repair, strengthen and buffer the nervous system so it’s ready for more action and stimulation in the long bright days of spring and summer.
Those who don’t follow that natural pulsation of pulling inward and rebuilding to pulse outward with strength and stamina are more likely to experience mental health difficulties. In Ayurveda, spring is known to be a time for more nervous system disorders due to people over doing it (rather than under doing it & rebuilding) in the winter.
Top Ten Tips to Nourish Your Nervous System
1. Enjoy Quiet, Relaxing Evenings
After an early and light dinner, create plenty of time to chill out and relax. The end of the day isn’t optimal for solving problems or tackling another to-do list. If you have a lot on your plate, it’s better to wake up a little earlier and get it done in the early morning, rather than burn the late-night oil and get burnt out.
Instead, follow the rhythm of nature and wind down with the sun. Attune to this energy of kapha (water + earth) that relishes in the sweet, sensuous, yummy, connective quality of the evening. Hang out with your household, read a book, put your feet up, take a bath, relax… Give yourself plenty of time to process and digest the day, rather than overload your system with stimulation.
2. Get Into Bed EARLY
This is one of the easiest ways to really nourish your nervous system. Aiming for around 9 or 10pm is good. Before that is even better. The more frayed and frazzled you are, the earlier you want to make your bedtime.
If you slowed down and synched up with the heavy, stable, building qualities of kapha in the evening from 6-10 pm, it’ll be way easier to slip into dreamland and get a good quality night’s rest. Sleeping hours before midnight are considered to be more valuable than those after. In Ayurveda we know that vata, the energy of space + air, comes into dominance from 2am-6am. If there’s not enough of the grounding, nurturing, restorative energy (of kapha) in your physiology, you’re more likely to wake up during that vata time in the early early morning.
Remember, winter = hibernation. Follow the flow and let it happen 🙂
3. Eat Healthy Fats
Good quality healthy fats will help to nourish, repair, and protect the tissues of the nervous system. They’re a main player in the winter Ayurvedic diet.
Good healthy fats include:
- flax oil – best used as a topping on soup, porridge, etc before serving. (not to be cooked with.)
- hemp seeds – easy to digest and also a great source of protein.
- chia – soak for 5-20 minutes or even overnight. high in omega 3’s. wonderful for the digestive tract as well.
- avocado – add it to everrrrythaaannnng
- good quality oils – unrefined, expeller pressed – olive, avocado, coconut, sesame, sunflower
- ghee – practically considered gold in Ayurveda, this refined fat from clarified butter improves digestion and can be assimilated into the subtle tissues of the body easily.
4. Massage Yourself
Self massage is such a sweet, loving way to practice self care. Daily or weekly, you can sit down on the edge of your bathtub or towel and attentively rub oil all over your body. Start with your focus on the soles of your feet to connect with all the reflexology points of your nerves for extra bonus benefits. Using downward strokes, gently smooth oil over your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, butt, hips, tummy, torso, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and scalp. Bring your loving attention onto every inch of your skin. You can even imagine touching and soothing your nervous system as you knead, rub and caress your skin.
The oil will be absorbed through the layers of skin and into your nerve endings, creating a protective barrier and adding strength over time. Self massage is grounding, calming, soothing, nurturing and strengthening.
Sesame oil is the best to use during the fall and winter months, with sweet and warming essential oils added. Coconut, olive or jojoba are great for the spring and summer.
5. Sit In Silence
A daily meditation practice will do wonders for your nerves. It’s known to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety, and can help you feel more present. The key is to create a specific time and place to meditate consistently. Find a time in your daily rhythm where you can sit down in silence, without interruption. Weaving it into your morning or evening routine is a nice option. Or even directly after you get home from work. You can try practicing at a specific time (8:30pm) and set the alarm on your phone to go off and remind you. Or directly after you brush your teeth and wash your face. For more tips, click here.
Even if you don’t have a formal practice, cultivating the habit of simply sitting in silence can be helpful. Give yourself a break from bringing in more information, and take 5, 10 or 20 minutes to relish in quiet nothingness and let your system process or simply relax. At night before you go to sleep is an ideal time to sit silently, or anytime you’re tempted to pick up your phone. Instead, try bringing your attention to your breath and experiencing a bit of simplicity in the moment.
6. Get Into A Groove
Creating a rhythmic, daily schedule for yourself helps the nervous system relax. Regular mealtimes and sleeping schedule are bottom line key players for balancing and improving your nerves. Consider these few essential, repeatable practices in your day to be the stakes that ground you down. Adding in other regular routines is even more helpful. A morning routine with some hot lemon water, meditation and yoga or an evening routine with a cup of chamomile tea and journaling are two easy examples. From there you can even weave in sacred ritual to bring you deeply into the present moment.
A regular daily schedule will ground you down and build a supportive container. Consider it the drum beat holding the rhythm to the wild and beautiful melodies of your day.
7. Practice Saying No
Practice saying “no” to some of the invitations, events, extra work, projects, parties and past time endeavors. By saying no to some of the extra things, you’re saying YES to yourself. Drawing a boundary around your needs builds a space for you to take care of yourself and step up more fully when you’re truly ready to. This can be a hard one for a lot of us, but over time you can transform your FOMO (fear of missing out) into POMO (pleasure of missing out).
When your cup is full, you have so much more to give. And no one can take better care of you than yourself.
8. Stay Warm & Cozy
Make sure to protect yourself from the cold. Getting chilly or just being exposed to very cold temperatures is hard on the nervous system. Take care to wear extra layers and stay warm and cozy. Covering your head, neck, hands and feet is especially important in the winter to keep the extremities warm when the blood circulation is more focused around the central organs.
You can also practice taking more warm baths, steam showers, saunas and hot tubs! Or even just enjoy hot beverages by the fire with a soft blanket and good company.
9. Try Yin Yoga & Yoga Nidra
Yin yoga and yoga nidra are so great to nourish your nervous system. Yin yoga is a series of restorative, gentle yoga poses. I’d consider it napping as an advanced art. Yoga nidra mindfully guides you into the subtle layers of your body, mind and emotions and unwinds you into a state of sweet, easeful awareness.
Both styles help to bring you into a deep state of relaxation. As you learn the techniques, you can bring them into your own home practice.
10. Cut Out Caffeine and Alcohol
I try not to tell people what not to do, but this one is a strong influencer when it comes to the health of your nerves. Nicotine, dark chocolate, and even drama could be considered part of the list. These substances hype your nervous system up, when you’re wanting to soothe, nourish and repair.
My suggestion is to try taking cutting them out for a few weeks or months until you’re feeling better, and then re-introduce sparingly. You might find that you actually need them much much less or not at all, especially if you’re practicing steps number one and two. 😀
If you’re really wanting to strengthen and repair the nervous system, feel grounded, present, focused, relaxed and attentive – I’d be so happy to help. With more personalized support we can also talk about what herbal allies can aid in your strong and buffered nerves. Click here to schedule a time to discuss options for working together.
May all beings know peace, love and care. xo