Top 10 things you can do for your nervous system to support your recovery from trauma
1. Ensure optimal nutritional support for your nervous system.
Your brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves are coated with a layer of fat, called myelin, which provides insulation to your nervous system. When myelin is not properly maintained or is eroded by autoimmune illness, you are bound to experience any number of symptoms of nerve dysfunction, common ones being muscle weakness, inexplicable chronic pain, and diminished vision.
Ensure adequate intake of healthy fats, and ensure adequate vitamin D and vitamin B12 status. All are essential to maintaining optimal myelin and nervous system health. (from http://drbenkim.com/nervous-system-healthy.html)
2. Exercise your nervous system on a daily basis.
The simple act of writing requires that you use all major components of your conscious motor and sensory pathways; a number of different sensory receptors, peripheral nerves, synaptic connections within your spinal cord, major tracts within your spinal cord, and nerve tissue throughout your brain need to be utilized with great precision and coordination to produce neatly written words.
One of the best ways of keeping your nervous system fine tuned is to spend a minimum of 15 minutes per day writing on paper as neatly as you can. Writing with pen on paper is far more effective at exercising your nervous system than writing with a keyboard on a computer, as typing on a keyboard doesn't require as much fine motor control as writing on paper.
· An alternative to writing on paper is to draw on paper, as drawing with precision also requires intensive use of all of the major components of your conscious motor and sensory apparatuses. (from http://drbenkim.com/nervous-system-healthy.html)
3. Stop and Take a Deep breath
The fastest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to take a deep calming breath. This can restores calm and clear thinking. Breathing slow and deep counteracts the effects of stress.
Pull a deep breath in all the way to your belly. Hold the breath for about 2-3 seconds. Slowly release the breath ensuring that the exhale is longer than the inhale. To slow the exhale either imagine to or actually breath out through a straw.
4. Get Physical and Active
Stress hormones prime the body for action and so exercise utilizes that activation. Over exercise or intense cardio exercise actually increases the stress hormone cortisol.
Take an enjoyable walk, especially in the sunlight. The exercise can clears your head and the sunlight can restore natural circadian rhythms to assist a natural sleep schedule.
5. Pamper Yourself
Pleasurable experience does more good for the body than a stressful one does harm. Pleasure enhances health, energy, and emotional well being.
Get a massage, engage in a hobby or activity. Take a relaxing bath, listen to beautiful music, and surround yourself with pleasant fragrances.
6. Limit or stop your intake of grains
Grains have a particularly high concentration of two types of lectin. Lectins are a class of proteins (of which gluten is one) that are present in all plant life to some degree. Two sub-classes of lectins, prolamins (like gluten) and agglutinins (like wheat germ agglutinin) are of particular concern for human health because of their association with leaky gut. This can set the stage for many health conditions, including cardiovascular and auto-immune diseases. (from http://www.thepaleomom.com/2011/11/why-grains-are-bad.html)
Limit or stop consumption of grains such as wheat, rye, millet, etc. Get your daily carbohydrates from vegetable starches like sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, jicama, etc.
Consider following an anti-inflammatory or autoimmune protocol diet.
7. Eat probiotics daily
Consumption of probiotics, either as a supplement or in the form of unpasteurized fermented foods, can dramatically help modulate the immune system and possibly reduce levels of anxiety and depression. Research findings highlight the important role of probiotics (healthy bacteria) in the bidirectional communication of the gut–brain axis. It may be that certain bacteria may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression. (from http://www.pnas.org/content/108/38/16050 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23474283)
Eat natural yogurt free from artificial sweeteners, corn syrup and artificial flavours. Enjoy plain natural yogurt on your fruit or cereal. Feel free to add a little sprinkle of natural sugar.
Even better, enjoy unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchee or other fermented veggies on your lettuce or tuna salad.
Take a high quality probiotic supplement on an empty stomach daily.
8. Eat Fish or take a good quality Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the communication, formation, reconstruction of brain synapses. Additionally, omega-3's have been shown to decrease the deterioration of brain and neural cells after an injury to the nervous system (from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3258094/pdf/nihms347496.pdf).
Eat wild fatty fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, or mackerel at least 2-3 times a week.
Take an omega-3 supplement daily.
Replace your regular eggs with omega-3 eggs
9. Limit sensory stimulation in your environment
When the nervous system is alert to any perceived, real or not, threat, it is important for the environment to be calming and supportive as possible. Many people crave highly stimulating environments, especially when they are accustomed to a heightened nervous system. Slowly allow your nervous system to adjust to a reduced-sensory environment.
Reduce excess sensory stimulation by turning down loud music, stop any blinking lights, ensure clothing is not itchy or to tight, etc.
Make a concerted effort to notice your internal body sensations as opposed to external things. Notice your legs and how they feel supported by the chair. Notice the softness of your blanket on your skin. If you can focus on the sensations of the body for a few minutes at a time.
Limit exposure to electronics (especially blue-light electronics)in the evenings and nights.
If it feels uncomfortable to reduce sensory stimulation too much, allow yourself to build a tolerance for a less stimulating environment by reducing one sensory input (music, light, tv, loud talking, etc) at a time.
10. Lastly and possibly most important - Savour Your Strengths
Take inventory of your strengths, then apply them in new ways in your daily life. For example, if you count curiosity as a strength, read about a new subject. If you consider yourself brave, try something that makes you nervous, such as public speaking. Our internal and external strengths are what will facilitate healing. It is necessary for us to determine what these are.
Explore and consider a broad range of strengths you may have.
Make a collage or fill a folder with clippings from magazines, photos, newspapers, etc that remind you of the strengths you have, are developing or would like to have.
Ask someone else what they think your strengths are.
There are many other aspects to supporting our nervous system. This list is comprised of points that help build or rebuild a strong foundation for healing.