An overactive sympathetic nervous system and its physical and emotional symptoms
Excessive sympathetic overload is a state in which the sympathetic nervous system becomes excessively activated, leading to a prolonged state of stress.
With a highly active sympathetic nervous system, the body remains in a heightened state of stress, even in the absence of immediate danger. This can lead to a range of physical and emotional symptoms, such as:
- Digestive issues
- Dysregulated and disturbed sleep
- Anxiety and depression
- Fatigue and exhaustion
It can also have negative impacts on overall health and well-being, including oral health and cardiovascular health.
The goal is to find a balance between the activation of the two ‘opposing’ nervous systems, so the body can respond appropriately to stress while also allowing for rest, digestion, and healing. To mitigate the effects of an overactive nervous system, it is important to adopt strategies to promote relaxation and calm.
1. Breathe deeply with diaphragmatic breathing
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a simple yet effective technique for balancing the PNS and promoting relaxation. Here’s how to do it:
- Find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling your belly first and then your chest.
- Hold your breath for a few seconds.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth, deflating your belly first and then your chest.
- Repeat the process for several minutes, focusing on slow, deep breaths.
By engaging the diaphragm and breathing deeply into the belly, you stimulate the vagus nerve, which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. This stimulation can help to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
2. Walking barefoot on natural surfaces can reduce sympathetic overload
Earthing, also known as grounding, involves connecting directly with the earth’s surface by walking barefoot on natural surfaces like grass, sand, or soil. This practice is believed to support your PNS by helping to bring stress levels down and promote relaxation.
The earth has a natural negative charge, and when you come into direct contact with it, you can absorb its electrons, having a balancing and grounding effect on your body.
In addition, studies have shown earthing can help to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. It can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve sleep quality.