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Pushing yourself to your edges, pulling all-nighters, procrastinating or pursuing activities under pressure can lead to unreasonable and unhealthy work expectations — often stunting growth in business while stressing out both the body and mind.
Most entrepreneurs and executives have no idea how much pressure they are under in their minds and how stressed their nervous systems become — the mind-body connection is often overlooked and not paid attention to until it hinders the ability to proceed in our work.
At a point in my life, I was climbing the corporate ladder while building a business on the side, and I was not listening to either my body or mind. This led to an emotional, mental and physical breakdown that landed me in the hospital. My anxiety was high, and I had a mild case of depression. I wasn’t taking care of myself, had poor eating habits, was hardly moving my body and left no room for fun, spending time with family and friends or resting and relaxing. My body was shutting down, my nervous system was dysregulated, I was in survival mode, and I didn’t realize how big my pain tolerance really was, taking everything on at once.
I didn’t realize how powerful the mind-body connection is, how important nervous system regulation work is and how it can dramatically cause and create more success in every part of your life.
Many are doing the mindset work yet leaving the body and nervous system work out of the ingredients of growing the business, going for that promotion or getting to that next level.
What is the nervous system? How does it contribute to success? How can we regulate it for sustainable success?
Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health
Over the years, I have been learning about the nervous system and hiring experts to help and support me in this area of my growth, and I’ve been practicing a few of these techniques. I have seen incredible results in my overall health, well-being and business.
Your nervous system is your body’s command center. It is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Originating from your brain, it controls your movements, thoughts, feelings and automatic responses to the world around you.
Stress, poor sleep, traumatic events, depression, chronic illness and relationship conflict can cause a dysregulated nervous system. You can either regulate your nervous system down if you are in a stressed state or regulate it up if you are in a lethargic state.
Your body is a living library of stored experiences and emotions. And when different stressors are present, they act as messengers to the body. You can be in a fight, flight, freeze or fawn response or rest and digest response.
When you experience anger, stress or fear, your brain automatically kicks into high gear and pumps cortisol into your adrenals. Your heart rate can speed up, your mind can race, and your body may tense up — resulting in a dysregulated nervous system that can be regulated down.
Our brain and body want to keep us safe; however, different situations, people and environments can put us in survival mode. I was living for years in survival mode. Please consider that everyone’s range of tolerance is different.
How were you when your last meeting did not go well? Are you anxious about a friend or family member or worried about signing on that client?
So, how can we move and manage from survival to safety? How can you lead your nervous system?
Here are a few ways I have found to regulate my nervous system.
- Carve out time for yourself. It can be easy to get caught up and neglect your own needs. However, it is a game changer if you are intentional about how much sleep you are getting, how much water you are drinking, what types of foods you eat, and how you can create downtime for yourself. How can you make 1% adjustments in any of these areas?
- Take deep breaths. Deep breathing is a simple yet effective way to regulate your nervous system and signify to your body and brain no emergency is happening. Box breathing has been very powerful for me. This is inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four and then holding for a count of four. You can repeat this for a total of 10 rounds.
- Feel the feeling for 90 seconds. When something occurs, it takes about 90 seconds for the initial emotion to be felt and not as charged. After this initial period, take deep breaths, create a safe space and get it out either by yelling, journaling and getting the emotion out or moving your body.
- Bring in more positive, happy and fun thoughts — these create and cause a great sensation in your body. These can be happy memories, future plans that you are excited about, incredible people you love, books, movies or activities you love.
- Get outside into nature — tune intentionally into your body and take in all of nature while being with yourself. You can even sing while walking or sitting. Using and hearing your voice is powerful and healing.
There are so many other ways to regulate your nervous system (up and down). The most important part of the process is to become aware of when you are dysregulated and start practicing these tools. At first, it may not feel like anything is occurring, yet watch what happens over time.
Both your body and brain will thank you.