How to regulate when you’re #triggered
Quick ways to regulate on the fly. Naturally.
‘It’ can happen in an instant. Your palms are sweaty, thoughts are racing, chest is tight. And that was all in 60 seconds. A dysregulated nervous system can hit at any time, but science proves there are countless easy, free and fast ways to disrupt the process, helping you feel calmer, quicker.
Your nervous system – how it works
Your nervous system is made up of the central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (everything else). The autonomic nervous system is part of the latter and within it sits the sympathetic (or ‘reactionary’) and the parasympathetic (aka. ‘regulatory’ or ‘rest and digest’) systems –– both of which act like a thermostat for your internal state.
The sympathetic system houses your ‘fight or flight’ responses, activated at times of real or perceived stress. Some refer to the sympathetic system as the accelerator and the parasympathetic system as the brake. The vagus nerve sits in the latter and connects and regulates your internal processes, from your brain to your abdominals. It is also one of the most clicked hashtags (for a nerve!) on TikTok, with almost 90 million views! So this list of parasympathetic pleasers acts as a love letter direct to your vagus nerve…
How to regulate it
Capitalise on cold
Wim Hoff has bought the chill mainstream and our founder is a big fan of the cold plunge on the daily. Wim maintains that ice cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, repairing its overall tone and in turn, your stress response. A simple splash of cold water or ice to the face or back of neck is enough to decrease the sympathetic response and reinstate the parasympathetic.
‘Oxytocin, a hypothalamic nonapeptide, is linked to increased levels of social interaction, well-being and anti-stress effects,’ says the authors of this study. It’s this hormone you are flooded with upon hugging a loved one or even exchanging a smile. Breastmilk, for example, is full of the stuff. It goes without saying that most positive primal activities can induce it –– from intimacy to enjoying a meal to even patting a pet. In fact, a cat’s purr, which is said to be at the purrfect healing frequency, releases a near constant stream of oxytocin upon their owners.
Let’s face it
Arnold H. Glasgow once said, ‘Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.’ For the rest of us, it’s known as ’the best medicine’. Laughter produces oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins, beautifully neutralising any negativity stuck in the body. And if you can’t get one in, try a smile. Both have been proven to work to fight off stress. Even if your smile isn’t genuine, doing so will still alert your brain to activate your army of ‘feel good’ chems, which let’s face it, is always welcome.
We all know the basics by now: caffeine and alcohol can increase anxiety, stress and even depression. But what is perhaps lesser known is the effect of gluten on mood. Gluten has long been associated with neurological issues like brain fog, forgetfulness and mood imbalances because of its ability to cause inflammation in the brain in those with gluten intolerances or sensitivities. And then there are those who believe dairy is problematic too. Robert Burton in his book Anatomy of Melancholy says, ‘Milk, and all that comes from milk, increases melancholy.’ Sugar of course is another one. Opt for good fats instead like avocados, fatty fish, eggs, nuts and nut butters.
Try a toolkit
Having a mental toolkit handy for times of dysregulation can greatly enhance your wellbeing. Include your favourite memory, a list of go-to things you find comforting, a calming breathing exercise or visualisation or even an object you find grounding. Refer to your list when you find yourself #triggered and always try and respond to any problem when you are safely back in parasympathetic territory. The simple exercise of repeating a meaningful memory (nostalgia has been proven to improve psychological wellbeing) could be enough to bring your brain back into balance leaving you free to respond to the problem from a peaceful space.