12 Affirming Signs Your Nervous System Is Healing + Tips

12 Affirming Signs Your Nervous System Is Healing + Resources

If you’ve been on an intentional self development journey, you might be wondering: what are the signs your nervous system is healing?

Recently, I had to have stitches in an E.R. after a traumatic event. Knowing what I know now about trauma and PTSD, I allowed myself to cry, to shake and to tremble as I was worked on. I didn’t hold back the natural movements of my body. I let myself cling to the nurse’s hand. Fully letting myself take in the nurturing empathy, and releasing and processing everything I could in the moment.

This is because I know that letting my body process traumatic experiences, and trusting my body’s ability, naturally helps prevent dysregulated responses later on. But, I wasn’t always this way.

Our Nervous System Helps Us Maintain Balance, But Can Easily Lose It

In the labyrinth of our intricate physiology lies the nerve center of our body. The nervous system acts as our body’s control system. But its balance can be disrupted by chronic stress, lingering echoes of traumatic experiences, childhood trauma, mental health issues, natural disasters, and more.

The interplay between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, when affected, sometimes cause a dysregulated response.

The consequences manifest in various ways. Dysregulation can cause triggering conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Or more other dysregulated responses like hypersensitivity, or even digestion problems.

As we start focusing on navigating our nervous system and stress responses, we may encounter the fight response, flight response, freeze response or fawn. This is the dance between the prefrontal cortex and the peripheral nervous system.

The multi-faceted healing process unfolds differently ways for all of us. And thankfully since the 19th century or so, trauma research and resources started growing. Methods such as somatic experiencing, for example, help us start healing a dysregulated nervous system.

(Read more about the nervous system and its effects on mindset.)

In 2021, I discovered that while I thought a lot of my issues were because of mindset…it turns out that some of them were because of trauma from my business. Over time, this created dysregulation.

I began the somatic healing process, and eventually got a somatic healing certification. It took a few months before I started seeing massive changes.

So once you start the healing process, how do we know if we’ve positively impacted our own nervous systems?

My hope for this blog post involves building a roadmap.

As I can, I want to recognize the affirming signs indicating my nervous system is on the path to healing. So, I’m gathering this info for me, and for you. From understanding the window of tolerance to stressful situations, to perceiving the stress response in a transformed light, we’ll explore 20 pivotal indications that signify your nervous system’s restoration.

Showing this progress in healing but also illuminates the different ways our nervous system finds equilibrium.

Read more: how to regulate a dysregulated nervous system.

Why is the nervous system important for “feeling good” and dealing with stressful events?

The connection between trauma and the nervous system is profound and intricate. 

Trauma significantly impacts the nervous system, particularly the autonomic nervous system, which consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.

Contrary to what many believe, I learned in my somatic coaching certification that trauma isn’t the actual EVENT that occurs. Trauma is what happens in your body because of the triggering event.

During a traumatic experience, the sympathetic nervous system often becomes highly activated, triggering the well-known “fight, flight, freeze” and responses, and lesser known and newly recognized “fawn” response. This response involves a surge of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, preparing the body to deal with the perceived threat. Heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tense, and senses become heightened. This heightened state of arousal is crucial for survival in dangerous situations.

When does trauma occur?

When is severe or prolonged, when we inappropriately suppress our response, or when we go through an overwhelming experience too fast for us to process, the nervous system might struggle to return to its normal state of functioning.

Have you ever seen a video of a prey animal after it escaped a predator? Often, it shakes. This shaking prevents trauma from getting stored in the body and creating a dysregulated response later on. How does your body feel after a traumatic event? Tuning into your bodily sensations, you might notice your nervous system’s stress response.

The parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for calming the body after a stress response, can have difficulty kicking in effectively. This can result in a state of hyperarousal, where individuals might remain hypervigilant, anxious, and reactive long after the traumatic event has passed. This dysregulation can lead to conditions like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or other anxiety-related disorders.

Additionally, trauma can physically alter the brain’s structure and function, affecting regions responsible for processing emotions, memory, and stress regulation. For instance, the amygdala, which plays a significant role in the brain’s emotional responses, can become hyperactive, while the prefrontal cortex, responsible for rational thinking and emotional regulation, might be less active.

Addressing trauma often involves techniques that aim to regulate the nervous system’s response to stress and fear, allowing individuals to feel more grounded, safe, and in control. Therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness, somatic experiencing, and various forms of therapy can assist in re-establishing a balance within the nervous system, promoting healing and recovery from trauma.

Read more: 17 tools to regulate nervous system.

Signs of Unhealed Trauma

Signs of unhealed trauma can manifest in various ways, impacting an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Signs of an overworked nervous system include:

  1. Flashbacks and Intrusive Thoughts: Recurrent, distressing memories or flashbacks of the traumatic event, or intrusive thoughts that disrupt daily life.
  2. Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, such as places, people, or situations associated with the trauma.
  3. Hyperarousal: Constant feelings of being on edge, hypervigilance, irritability, difficulty sleeping and sleep disturbances, and an exaggerated startle response.
  4. Emotional Distress: Intense emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, shame, or sadness that seem disproportionate to the current situation. Emotional numbness or feeling detached from others can also be present.
  5. Physical Symptoms: Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system,and other stress-related bodily responses. (Read more about somatic pain.)
  6. Disrupted Relationships: Struggles in forming and maintaining healthy relationships, whether it’s due to difficulty in trusting others or experiencing emotional outbursts that strain connections.
  7. Self-Destructive Behavior: Engaging in risky behaviors, substance abuse, or self-harm as a way to cope with the distress.
  8. Negative Self-Perception: Feeling unworthy, inadequate, or experiencing a persistent negative self-view due to the trauma.
  9. Distorted Beliefs: Having a skewed view of the world, oneself, or others, including beliefs like the world being fundamentally unsafe, or a persistent mistrust of others. Read more about mindset and trauma.
  10. Chronic Stress and Anxiety: Persistent feelings of stress, anxiety, or being overwhelmed even when there’s no immediate threat, impacting daily functioning.
  11. Emotional dysregulation: being in high alert can make you more sensitive, and agitated out of proportion to the situation

Somatic Coaching: how a somatic coach can help with mindset and trauma.

12+ Affirming Signs Your Nervous System Is Healing + Resources

The good news is that none of these symptoms are a permanent sentence. The signs of a healing nervous system can vary from person to person, and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalized guidance. However, here are 20 potential affirming signs that your nervous system might be healing.

Emotional balancing and mental resilience

Notice a more balanced response between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems.

Emotional balancing was one of the first profound signs I experienced in obtaining a more flexible nervous system. Being able to feel two things at once – the good and the bad – was a powerful tool for elevating my overall emotional state. I also often feel more in control of my emotional response in periods of stress. In the past, stressful events derailed my productivity and happiness for days. (If not weeks or even months.) Emotional balancing allows me to feel fully joyful and calm, even during times of stress.

Better stress management and reaction to triggers

Feel more capable of managing stress and reacting more calmly to challenging situations.

Healing your nervous system is crucial for improved stress management as it helps regulate the body’s response to stress, facilitating a more balanced and resilient reaction to challenging situations. By nurturing the nervous system, individuals can better modulate their reactions to triggers, enabling a more measured and composed response in the face of stressors.

Enhanced overall well-being

Feel an overall improvement in your quality of life, both physically and mentally.

Remember, these signs can vary greatly among individuals, and while these signs may indicate nervous system healing, they’re not exhaustive or definitive. It’s crucial to work with

healthcare professionals to understand and address your specific symptoms and concerns.

Reduced pain

Experience a decrease in chronic pain or a reduction in the intensity of pain symptoms.

In the case of my recent trauma above, I was able to honor my body’s natural response. I did feel physical pain, but I allowed myself to move through it. This helped me (hopefully) avoid PTSD or having any trauma trapped in my body, needing professional help later.

A regulated nervous system plays a crucial role in managing pain. This is due to its ability to modulate and interpret pain signals.

A regulated nervous system can better process and interpret pain signals. It distinguishes between acute and chronic pain and accurately assesses the severity of pain signals. This enables a more appropriate response. The nervous system also modulates the intensity of pain perception. A regulated nervous system helps prevent sensation from feeling overwhelming or exaggerated. A healthy nervous system activates the body’s natural pain modulation systems. It releases endorphins and other natural pain-relieving chemicals, helping mitigate the experience of pain.

A regulated nervous system also supports the body’s healing and recovery processes may function more efficiently. This can reduce the duration and intensity of pain associated with injuries.

These are just a few reasons your nervous system supports pain management.

In contrast, a dysregulated nervous system can amplify and prolong pain experiences. For instance, conditions like fibromyalgia or chronic pain syndrome are associated with nervous system dysregulation, leading to heightened and persistent pain.

Improved sleep

Notice better sleep quality, including falling asleep faster, staying asleep, and feeling more rested upon waking.

The nervous system helps regulate the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm. This rhythm influences the sleep-wake cycle. A well-regulated system aids in maintaining a healthy pattern of sleep. Additionally, the nervous system regulates the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep-wake cycle. A balanced nervous system supports the production of melatonin, aiding in the initiation and maintenance of sleep.

If you used to struggle with sleep, and can rest more easily now: you might have a more regulated nervous system.

Don’t Get Triggered As Easily

Before I started somatic therapy, it wasn’t hard for me to recall a traumatic sensation and re-live the physical and emotional part of the trauma. Now instead of going into survival mode, I’m able to process and manage my emotions and body’s energy through the experience.

A lot of things that used to trigegr me, don’t anymore.

Decreased hypersensitivity

Find that you’re less reactive to stimuli such as light, sound, or touch.

Before I discovered somatic work and how to regulate my nervous system, it was common for my to feel overstimulated. This is because I was constantly on the edge of my window of tolerance. So it didn’t take much for me to go out of it.

A regulated nervous system can help with decreased hypersensitivity primarily because it allows for better management and modulation of sensory information. Hypersensitivity is an exaggerated or heightened response to sensory stimuli, such as increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or other environmental factors. When the nervous system is dysregulated, it can amplify these sensory signals, leading to an overwhelming response.

Better mood and mental health

Notice an improvement in mood, reduced anxiety, and decreased instances of depression.

A regulated nervous system can significantly contribute to better mood and mental health due to its role in maintaining homeostasis and managing stress.

The nervous system, particularly the autonomic nervous system (ANS), consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. A well-regulated ANS can effectively manage the body’s stress response. When it functions optimally, it allows for proper activation and deactivation of the stress response. Chronic stress or an overactive stress response can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Regulating the nervous system can help in managing and reducing stress, thereby positively impacting mood and mental well-being.

For instance, a well-regulated system can shift the body into a state of relaxation (parasympathetic activation) after a stressor has passed, allowing the body to recover, repair, and reduce the negative impacts of prolonged stress.

Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can positively influence the regulation of the nervous system by enhancing parasympathetic activity, thereby promoting better mood and mental health.

Increased energy levels

Feel more energized and less fatigued during the day.

When the nervous system is regulated, it helps to maintain a balanced and efficient allocation of energy throughout the body. A well-regulated autonomic nervous system ensures that the body can effectively switch between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) branches. This balance is crucial in conserving and distributing energy appropriately.

An overactive or imbalanced nervous system, constantly triggered by stressors, can lead to excessive energy expenditure as the body remains in a heightened state of alertness. This can result in feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, and reduced overall energy levels.

On the other hand, a well-regulated nervous system allows the body to efficiently manage stress responses, facilitating adequate relaxation and recovery through parasympathetic activation. This, in turn, conserves energy for essential bodily functions, leading to increased overall energy levels.

By reducing the unnecessary drain on the body’s resources caused by chronic stress or an imbalanced nervous system, individuals are more likely to experience higher and more sustained levels of energy throughout the day.

Emotions Flow

After my healing journey, I noticed that I allowed emotions to flow. Sometimes I know why they arise, or why I want to cry. But other times, emotions come out of nowhere and I let myself feel them. I understand that this could be a release from something in the past, and I move through it without shame or question. This often happens during breathwork, somatic coaching, and even sometimes while journaling or meditating.

Improved digestion

Experience fewer digestive issues or a reduction in gastrointestinal problems like bloating or constipation.

The nervous system plays a vital role in digestion through two primary components: the enteric nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

Enteric Nervous System (ENS):

The ENS is a complex network of neurons located in the gastrointestinal tract, often referred to as the “second brain.” It controls the digestive system locally, independently of the central nervous system (CNS). The ENS regulates various digestive functions such as the movement of food through the digestive tract, secretion of enzymes and hormones, and the coordination of gut muscle contractions for mixing and propelling food. It plays a crucial role in peristalsis, the rhythmic contractions that move food through the esophagus, stomach, and intestines.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS):

The autonomic nervous system, consisting of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, also influences digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the “rest and digest” system, promotes digestion by increasing blood flow to the digestive organs and stimulating gastrointestinal motility and secretions. It aids in the release of digestive enzymes and supports the absorption of nutrients from food.

Conversely, the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, can inhibit digestion. When the body is under stress or facing perceived threats, the sympathetic nervous system diverts resources away from the digestive system to support other bodily functions needed for immediate action. This can lead to decreased digestive activity and may cause issues such as indigestion or stomach upset.

Enhanced cognitive function

Notice improvements in memory, concentration, and mental clarity.

The nervous system plays a crucial role in enhanced cognitive function through various mechanisms. Neurotransmitters and neural connections enable communication within the brain, supporting cognitive processes like attention, memory, learning, and problem-solving. The brain’s plasticity, the ability to adapt and form new connections, is facilitated by the nervous system, allowing for learning and skill development. Proper functioning of the nervous system, particularly the neurotransmitter release and synaptic connections, is essential for optimal cognitive performance. Additionally, a well-regulated nervous system helps manage stress, which, when chronic, can impair cognitive abilities.

Resources for Nervous System Healing

There are many resources for helping you rebuild a more flexible nervous system.

Use a guide:

  • Somatic coaching. A somatic coach should have a certificate, and sometimes a certification in somatic coaching or somatic healing.
  • Somatic therapy. A somatic therapist often has a therapy license or Dr. Peter LEvine’s somatic experiencing certification
  • Traditional therapy can teach you tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy for processing emotions
  • Physical therapy for chronic pain

More resources

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