Operation: Nervous System Repair
I don’t know about you, but this was an especially unique summer for me. From the
fatigue of crossing the finish line of a hairy academic year, and the subsequent
realization that we had been slogging away at the pandemic uncertainty for 15
months, I inherently felt a different quality to my own nervous system, and to that of
my patients. There was a new level of fatigue, languishing, and even some
despondence. And it was not something that is healed by just one solid night of
restorative sleep. This ran deep.
As I spoke to my patients (predominantly parents), I kept hearing the same stories.
People were anxious, fatigued, taking ages to complete simple tasks, short fused,
wired, and more. I am sure you can relate. Our nervous systems were simply
hitting a wall.
As humans we are very lucky to be wired with an internal alarm system. Its
presence warns us of impending danger. It signals when we need to fight, flight, or
freeze. It is in fact genius, and one of the very unique functions allowing us to
survive the ups and downs of life. However, this system is designed for short bursts,
separated by periods of extended rest. It is simply not designed to fire frequently
(let alone almost constantly for a year and a half). Can you imagine your smoke /
home / car alarm sounding constantly? After a certain point, no one would continue
to head its warning, and then it would eventually totally breakdown. What I saw in
myself, and my patients this summer, was a similar teetering on the edge of collapse,
and it was not ok.
Luckily, we can catch things before a full blown unravelling occurs (although it was
dangerously close for many). Enter, nervous system rest, repair, and reset. This is
the necessary break our body needs. Tell me, have you spent some time addressing
your own nervous system since this pandemic began? If so, great work! Keep at it,
it is a process, be gentle with yourself. If no, let me tell you (in no uncertain terms):
Do So Soon! It is a matter of survival, and it can’t wait. Without the nervous
systems full function, we are at real risk. And in my personal and professional
experience, left unattended, our bodies give louder and louder messages that they
need this break, until we can literally no longer ignore them (this often looks like an
injury that forces a slow down, and I have seen lots lately).
You may be wondering: How do I heal my nervous system? Great question! I
believe this is about small, consistent practices, done over the course of time. In a
situation like this, it will not take days or weeks to repair, but more like many
months or longer. I also see it as deeply personal. When coaching my patients on this
type of work, I often provide a laundry list of options to consider. I list ones that are
well known, and have evidence to support their efficacy. I don’t suggest they do
them all, and ultimately, we are each individuals, so choosing for yourself is
important. Nervous system healing practices are things you look forward to, and
that leave you feeling calmer and less stimulated than when you started. Knowing
yourself will help you navigate, and if you don’t know, see below.
This summer, I upped my game on some of my favourite nervous system
rebalancing behaviours, and it is slowly paying off. These include:
Quality time in nature – preferably away from any nearby buildings / cars
(and your device)
Connecting with close friends +/ or family – if possible, in person (safely) is
Mindfulness meditation – even 5-10 minutes is enough
Journaling – uncensored clearing of whatever is coming up
Dancing – ‘like no one is watching’ as the saying goes
Turning off the media – conventional + / social media as needed
Nourishing my body – eating nutrient dense whole foods and drinking water
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are so many more options, including
bodywork and naturopathic remedies. My advice is to pick what resonates with
you. Practice it regularly, most days, and if possible at the same time. Work on
becoming truly present in your practices (vs. just checking them off a list) and pay
attention to how you feel. You will notice a change as you go, I promise.
I believe this type of work is universally necessary right now. So far, our pandemic
experiences have been very individual, which means so will our need to rebuild in
unique ways and timeframes. Getting individualized care is very helpful to hatch
your personal plan. If you are curious about your nervous system, and need
guidance on how (or where) to start, I am here. Reach out and chat with myself, or
any of the other practitioners on our team, today. We are not yet at the end of this
journey, so by all means, take some time along the way to pause, rest, and reset, so
we can be that much more ready for the next chapter. We can do this!
Dr. Stephanie Peltz has been practicing naturopathic medicine since 2008. Her area of expertise is in women's and childhood health including preconception care, fertility concerns, pregnancy, and postpartum care. You can find her at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Saturday. Click here to make an appointment