Coping with stress strategies: if you work for yourself, then I don’t have to tell you how important it is to be able to keep a cool head on the daily.
My secret fix? A regulated nervous system.
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Coping with Stress Strategies: What is a regulated nervous system?
Your nervous system is your body’s command center. So it makes sense that healthy nervous system is pretty important for both mental and physical health. Originating from your brain, your nervous system controls your movement, thoughts and automatic responses to the world around you.
Your nervous system affects every aspect of your health, including your:
- Thoughts, memory, learning, and feelings.
- Movements, such as balance and coordination.
- Senses, including how your brain interprets what you see, hear, taste, touch and feel.
- Sleep, healing and aging.
- Heartbeat and breathing patterns.
- Response to stressful situations.
- Digestion, as well as how hungry and thirsty you feel.
- Body processes, such as puberty.
In short: a regulated nervous system is when your nervous system is balanced. When your nervous system is balanced, your vital functions are normal. And when your vital functions are normal, it’s easier to be happy and healthy, quite literally.
How a Regulated Nervous System Helps With Stress
When your systems are functioning properly, it’s easier to remain calm and balanced during times of stress.
The sympathetic nervous system helps prepare the body for action, while the parasympathetic nervous system helps relieve stress and return to a state of rest.
Strategies for coping with stress are critical because our ability to regulate these two systems helps ensure that our emotions remain under control, so we avoid overwhelm or undue distress.
When our nervous system functions normally, we remain more resilient in the face of stressful situations. Our bodies literally become better equipped to deal with hard things more effectively.
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How your nervous system becomes dysregulated
When it comes to emotions and “being dysregulated”, the nervous system plays a huge role in how we react in certain situations. Dysregulation or “being out of balance” occurs when the body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are unable to appropriately respond to stressors.
Stay with me – I know it’s a lot!
Fight or Flight
For example, when we experience difficult emotions, our nervous system may activate the fight-or-flight response. This response is meant to protect us from danger. It usually includes increased heart rate, sweating, accelerated breathing and other reactions that create physical tension. If the fight or flight state persists without resolution, it can lead to overwhelm and anxiety.
Here’s the problem: the body is constantly scanning for threats. Meaning, it will automatically move into states of hypervigilance. This is built into our system as a way of ensuring safety from harm. But prolonged exposure to fear-based emotions causes some rewiring towards a heightened sense of alertness, eroding our mental health.
Because we are constantly looking for threats naturally, if we don’t focus on calming down, we are naturally in a constant state of stress. Over time, this can lead to an emotional dysregulation where the body has difficulty calming down after feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Freeze & Fawn
Another note: if you don’t deal with this or if you have prolonged stress outside of your control, you can also go into the freeze or fawn stress responses.
An example could be a stressful work situation with an abusive and volatile boss. In the beginning, you may go into fight and flight. But if you’re unable to leave the job or set boundaries, and have no way to leave the abusive situation, you might go into a freeze state for survival instead.
Why is regulation important for stress management?
Why should you care about regulating your nervous system as an entrepreneur as a strategy for coping with stress?
Lots of reasons!
First, it’s hard to get into creative problem solving mode when you’re stressed. If something stops working in your business, it can be much harder to find a solution if you’re in a tense state.
Second, in a state of dysregulation, your coping with stress strategies skills are often compromised. This means when stressful things happen, you’re unable to move past it easily. You might blame others, or be unable to get into a positive mindset after bad news.
Third, it can be difficult to interact with others or ourselves in healthy ways. Entrepreneurship, sales and working with your team require communication, confidence and vulnerability. Not only that, but being in a dysregulated state will also make it harder for you have quality time with family and friends as well. You could find yourself impatient, intolerant, or just wanting to numb out.
Fourth, it will eventually impact your physical health. The various systems within the body—including cardiovascular, endocrine and hormonal—are all connected with one another in complex ways. Long term imbalances can affect our physical and mental wellbeing. Secondly, being in a stressed state can put us out of touch with our physical body. This disassociation can contribute to a lack of self-awareness with your mind-body connection, disrupting sleep, a healthy diet, and other fundamental habits, leading to health problems down the road.
Quick Tips on Stress Management and Regulating Your Nervous System
So how do you regulate your nervous system as an entrepreneur?
Here are some quick tips to help you do just that.
5 Coping With Stress Strategies
1. Deep Breathing Exercises
Taking a few deep breaths helps to slow down your heart rate and calm your nerves. Start by breathing in slowly through your nose for a count of three. Then exhale through the mouth for a count of four. Repeat this process several times.
2. Listen To Calming Music
Listening to calming music (classical, nature-inspired, french cafe or ambient music) can help to slow down the autonomic nervous system and regulate emotions. Choose songs with slower beats and calming melodies.
3. Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation helps manage stress levels by helping you get out of your head and back to the present. As you meditate and your attention moves towards anxiety or frustration, you can use your breath to move the energy you don’t want. A great way to start a mindfulness practice is simply focusing on you breath in stillness. Try sitting quietly for 10 minutes or more each day after writing a gratitude list, creating a space for self-reflection free from distraction.
4. Exercise Regularly and Practice Intuitive Movement
Staying physically active is an awesome way to manage stress. It releases endorphins which act as natural mood boosters. This helps you regulate your nervous system by aiding in both stress and emotional regulation.
5. Stay Hydrated And Well Fed
Ensuring proper hydration is key when it comes to managing stress levels since water helps to regulate body temperature which has been linked with anxiety levels in some cases. Eating balanced meals throughout the day is also important since food provides energy needed for the brain and body in order to function properly when under pressure or experiencing any other kind of strain due to work or lifestyle changes (i.e., moving homes).
6. Use Intuitive Sounding
When is the last time you hummed along to your favorite song? Did you know that while you were humming, you were are also boosting your immunity and improving the health of your nervous system? I love this info below from Flowly.world:
Research shows that humming is an incredibly powerful process for healing for three main reasons. Because your vagus nerve runs through both the larynx and pharynx in your throat, humming creates a vibration that stimulates your vagus nerve and can increase your vagal tone (aka the health of your vagus nerve!).
Heart rate variability, or HRV, is an important metric that shows how well you are able to deal with and recover from stress. When you hum, you induce parasympathetic dominance, which means you move out of “fight or flight” stress mode into relaxation.
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