neurodivergent nervous system
Written byMegan Anna Neff
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For many neurodivergent people, it is sometimes necessary to reset the nervous system to help the body regulate itself. The nervous system is a complex thing.This month I will be creating more content that unpacks the neurodivergent nervous system..
Today, I'll give an overview of the autonomic nervous system and its role in the stress response. Scroll down to find strategies to learn practices that help tune up and reset the nervous system.
Before a nervous system reset
It helps to understand what is really going on in the body. Let's talk about the different parts of the nervous system responsible for stress and relaxation:
The autonomic nervous system
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for moderating our body's response to external and internal stressors. The ANS consists of two branches:
the sympathetic nervous system ("fight or flight")
the parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest")
Hesympathetic nervous systemIt is responsible for awakening and mobilizing our body to action. This system activates our "fight or flight" response.
Heparasympathetic nervous systemcalms our body and supports the "rest and digest" process.
These two systems control the same organs; however, they work in opposite directions. Think of the sympathetic mode as the gas pedal and the parasympathetic mode as the brake pedal. When the nervous system is healthy, these two systems work in harmony to balance the body.
sympathetic nervous system
When we experience a threat, our body can become sympathetically dominant, which is commonly known as the "fight or flight" response.
When our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, several things happen: We get a huge dose of adrenaline/epinephrine and our stress hormone cortisol rises.
These hormones are designed to give us the energy to defend ourselves against the threat. Other physical reactions to the fight or flight process include:
The pupils dilate so that we can take in more information.(Video) Trauma, Triggers and Emotional Dysregulation: 10 Ways to Regulate Your Nervous System w/ Anna Runkle
Heart rate increases
Blood is diverted from our digestive tract to our muscles.
These bodily reactions are useful and lifesaving on the rare occasions when we are in the woods and encounter a dangerous animal. However, it is not as useful when you are sitting in a classroom and it triggers our fight or flight response. So we have excess energy with limited opportunities to release it.
The parasympathetic nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system (the brake pedal) slows down certain reactions in the body and helps the body settle into a state of rest. When we are in the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, we can slow down, calm the body, rest, relax, and sleep. Parasympathetic engagement promotes healthier digestion, repairs cells in the body, and promotes sleep.
When our body is in the parasympathetic nervous system, it experiences the following:
reduced heart rate
Slower (deeper) breathing
Enfoque suave del ojo
Increased digestive enzymes
Stimulates bile (digestion)
Our ability to activate the relaxation response and downregulate our body is directly related to our vagal tone. People with ADHD and autism tend to have reduced vagal tone, which means we have a harder time activating our relaxation response and recovering from the stress response.
Turning off the dorsal vagus
When we work in harmony with the sympathetic mode, the parasympathetic mode helps us stay within an ideal window of activity (also called a window of tolerance). However, under extreme stress, the dorsal vagus nerve (part of the parasympathetic system) will initiate a system shutdown.
Just as our body can become sympathetically dominant under stress, it can also become parasympathetically dominant and shut down in response to stress. The dorsal vagus is activated under extreme stress, causing an immobilization often referred to as a "freeze" response.
The freeze response is an extreme version of the parasympathetic nervous system that involves shutting down the system, leading to a foggy feeling, disconnection, and a general feeling of dissociation. If escape is not an option, we can switch from sympathetic mode to full shutdown (dorsal vagal shutdown).
Importance for ADHD and Autistic Nervous Systems
People with ADHD and autism tend to have more sensitive nervous systems, which means we are more easily put into a state of stress.
For the neurodivergent person, a loud noise, an unexpected change of plans, or an unexpected touch can trigger our fight or flight response. And then, because we have a less flexible nervous system, it becomes more difficult to get back to our baseline. For this reason, many people with ADHD and autism experience life through a predominantly likeable way of being.
Resume:When we are stressed, emotionally overwhelmed, tired, or sensory overloaded, our nervous system is dysregulated. This is the body's natural response. At these times, our nervous system needs a "reboot" to get back to baseline.
Because ADHD sufferers and autistic people have a more sensitive nervous system. We benefit from more daily resets. Here are some practices to help reset the nervous system:
13 strategies to restart the nervous system
Chewing on ice grounds you and can also help with overstimulation.Buy fidgetsit can work in a similar way.
three deep breaths
Deep breathing helps trigger the relaxation response and takes us out of our fight or flight response.
Stimming helps move excess energy. You may need to channel the extra energy before engaging in negative regulation and relaxation practices (such as breath work and progressive muscle relaxation).
Cold showers improve dopamine and vagal tone, which improves our ability to come out of the fight or flight response.
Tapping is another effective grounding strategy. By touching specific pressure points, this also helps activate the relaxation response and gets us out of fight or flight mode.
play music and dance
Music can increase dopamine and works as a great mood reset. Dancing helps move energy and can provide grounding.
Hum, sing or chant
Humming, singing, and chanting activate the vagus nerve, which activates the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and helps the body come out of the fight or flight response.
Spend time with your pet
Pets can help regulate and down-regulate our nervous system. Playing with or petting your pet serves as an additional sensory grounding strategy.
Use a weighted blanket
weighted blanketsthey also help activate our relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and down regulate the body. This helps us get out of the fight or flight response (alternatively, you can use aweighted lap pad).
Go for a walk
Walking is grounding, increases dopamine, and helps transport excess energy. If done outdoors, fresh air is an advantage.
Hold a fan in front of your face
Fresh air grounds and helps to down regulate the body.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is one of my favorite strategies to activate the nervous system. This is a powerful way to activate the relaxation response, downregulate the body, and reduce muscle tension. Dartmouth has a recording you can listen to that will guide you through aExercise for progressive muscle relaxation.
Essential oils such as lavender, lemon, and others have been shown to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and promote relaxation, rest, and improved sleep. As a bonus, your brain will start to associate smell with relaxation the more you do it, further aiding relaxation.
The Neurodivergent Nervous System (for personal use only)
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Megan Anna Neff
How do you reset a dysregulated nervous system? ›
- Explore Moderate-to-Intense Forms of Movement. ...
- Introduce an Electronic Sabbath. ...
- Seek Sunshine and Nature. ...
- Spend Time with Pets and Loved Ones. ...
- Explore Activities that Make You Lose Track of Time. ...
- Socialize. ...
- Develop Your Spiritual Practice.
A well-regulated nervous system leads to a quieter mind and a clearer outlook on life. Nervous System RESET helps us reconnect with our bodies in a new way, experiencing them as empowered, intelligent, and pulsating with life.How can I restore my nervous system naturally? ›
A person can use exercise to improve the functioning of the nerves that serve the muscles and other peripheral parts of the body. Increasing the activity in the peripheral nervous system strengthens the nerves, in the same way that exercise strengthens the muscles.How many days does it take to reset your brain? ›
Experts suggest 90 days as a general estimate for rewiring the brain, but everyone is different. Talk to us today and find out how your brain and body can recover with the support of our experienced healthcare team.What foods are bad for the nervous system? ›
- Dietary Don'ts. 1/12. ...
- Margarine and Frosting. 2/12. ...
- Alcohol. 3/12. ...
- Soda and Other Sugary Drinks. 4/12. ...
- Diet Sodas and Drinks With Artificial Sweeteners. 5/12. ...
- French Fries and Other Fried Foods. 6/12. ...
- Doughnuts. 7/12. ...
- White Bread and White Rice. 8/12.
Neurotropic B vitamins play crucial roles as coenzymes and beyond in the nervous system. Particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin) contribute essentially to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.What are the signs of an unregulated nervous system? ›
Symptoms of a dysregulated nervous system
A dysregulated nervous system can cause mental health symptoms such as anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, depression, insomnia, poor attention, poor memory, addiction, exhaustion.
One of the best ways to rewire your brain is to distract it. When you find yourself caught in a mental loop of self-sabotage, start singing one of your favorite songs out loud. If you have extra time, you can immerse yourself in a meditative practice or begin working on an art project.Does crying reset your nervous system? ›
"[Crying] activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance."Does sleeping reset nervous system? ›
New research explains this process in action. Microscopic images of synapses – the junction between two nerve cells – have been shown to expand with daytime stimulation and shrink with sleep, thus resetting the brain ready for the next day.
Can you detox your nervous system? ›
A brain detox can help support the glymphatic system, which refers to the system of blood vessels in the body that removes waste products from the brain and central nervous system. Getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to support your brain's natural detoxification process.What supplements repair of the nervous system? ›
Background: Neurotropic B vitamins play crucial roles as coenzymes and beyond in the nervous system. Particularly vitamin B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin) contribute essentially to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.What fruits heal nerve damage? ›
Fruits. Fruits contain antioxidants that help fight nerve damage and control inflammation. Try to have a serving of fruit daily. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, grapes, and oranges are all beneficial to the nerves.What can I drink for nervous system? ›
Having a cup of Green Tea at least once a day, is a great way of maintaining the heart of your nervous system. Rich in amino acid, Green Tea helps with serotonin levels.What drugs release dopamine in the brain? ›
Research has shown that the drugs most commonly abused by humans (including opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine) create a neurochemical reaction that significantly increases the amount of dopamine that is released by neurons in the brain's reward center.How do I get my dopamine levels back to normal? ›
- Create exciting daily routines. Incorporate fun activities into your daily routine, even if they are mindless activities. ...
- Focus on perfecting your sleep schedule. ...
- Improve your diet. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Practice mindfulness. ...
- Listen to music.
Several factors affect how quickly your brain resets its dopamine levels. The amount and frequency you used drugs or drink is a big factor, but most people find their natural dopamine levels return to normal levels after about 90 days.What are the 5 brain killer foods? ›
- Sugary Drinks. Share on Pinterest. ...
- Refined Carbs. Refined carbohydrates include sugars and highly processed grains, such as white flour. ...
- Foods High in Trans Fats. ...
- Highly Processed Foods. ...
- Aspartame. ...
- Alcohol. ...
- Fish High in Mercury.
Nuts like almonds, pistachios and macadamias each bring something special to the table. Almonds help improve memory, pistachio nut oils help preserve fatty acids and prevent inflammation, and macadamias contribute to normal brain function. Yet, the top nut award certainly goes to the walnut.Which fruit is best for brain? ›
Certain fruits such as oranges, bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries, contain high amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent brain cells from becoming damaged and supports overall brain health. In fact, a study found that vitamin C can potentially prevent Alzheimer's.
Can vitamin B12 reverse nerve damage? ›
If the deficiency is detected early, some damage can be reversed. However, if the consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency have progressed too much, nerve damage is irreparable. Therefore, an insufficient supply of vitamin B12 should by all means be taken seriously and should be prevented.What vitamin deficiency causes nervous problems? ›
A lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems, which affect your nervous system, such as: vision problems. memory loss. pins and needles.Can vitamin B12 repair nerve damage? ›
Vitamin B12 Enhances Nerve Repair and Improves Functional Recovery After Traumatic Brain Injury by Inhibiting ER Stress-Induced Neuron Injury - PMC. The .What are the top 3 nervous system disorders? ›
Among the most common are epilepsy, Alzheimer's, and stroke.
Neurological disorders are central and peripheral nervous system diseases, that is, they occur in the brain, spine, and multiple nerves that connect both.
- Blood supply problems (vascular disorders).
- Injuries (trauma), especially injuries to the head and spinal cord.
- Problems that are present at birth (congenital).
Psychostimulant drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine are prototypic drugs inducing neuroplasticity changes, and they have been extensively studies during the last years.What supplements increase neuroplasticity? ›
B-vitamin and choline supplementation increases neuroplasticity and recovery after stroke.What exercises create new neural pathways? ›
Non-dominant hand exercises are excellent for forming new neural pathways, as well as strengthening the connectivity between existing neurons. For instance, if you're right-handed, try brushing your teeth with your left hand – and then try it while balancing on one leg for a double neuroplasticity bonus.What chemical is released in your brain when you cry? ›
Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.What is a neuro cry? ›
Like many newborns who suffer profound brain injuries from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, my daughter was diagnosed with “neuro-crying” or “neuro-irritability.” These terms can be defined as crying, agitation, or irritability in children with known neurological issues.
What does humming do to the vagus nerve? ›
Humming stimulates your vagus nerve
Because your vagus nerve runs through both the larynx and pharynx in your throat, humming creates a vibration that stimulates your vagus nerve and can increase your vagal tone (aka the health of your vagus nerve!).
Injured nerve cells in the central nervous system typically do not regenerate. However, this part of the nervous system can reorganize in response to an injury. This is called "plasticity." Luckily, the brain has a lot of built-in redundancy.What happens when you over stimulate your nervous system? ›
Symptoms of an over active or dominant sympathetic nervous system are: anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, insomnia, breathlessness, palpitations, inability to relax, cannot sit still, jumpy or jittery, poor digestion, fear, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, to name but a few.Which of your body's systems works like a reset button for your brain? ›
The vagus nerve is the most influential nerve in our parasympathetic nervous system. It functions like your body's natural reset button.What herb calms the nervous system? ›
Nervines include herbs like valerian, chamomile, and passionflower. These herbs provide acute relief to nervous tension, which is why we use these in blends like our Nighty Night® teas to relieve occasional sleeplessness and our Chamomile with Lavender tea for a nervous stomach.What plant is good for nerve damage? ›
The more common plants which are used for the treatment of neuropathic pain are included as: Acorus calamus, Artemisia dracunculus, Butea monosperma, Citrullus colocynthis, Curcuma longa, Crocus sativus, Elaeagnus angustifolia, Ginkgo biloba, Mitragyna speciosa, Momordica charantia, Nigella sativa, Ocimum sanctum, ...Are bananas good for nervous system? ›
Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins, which help calm the nervous system. PMS: The vitamin B6 that bananas contain regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.How do you fix neurological problems? ›
Medication therapy, which is often the primary treatment. Care for stroke, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions. Physical or occupational therapy for rehabilitation from neurological conditions. Minor diagnostic procedures such as myelography (imaging of spine) and spinal tap.Can neurological symptoms be reversed? ›
Whether or not neuropathy can be reversed depends on the cause of the nerve damage. In some cases, the pain may go away entirely. In others, nerve damage may be permanent. For example, when neuropathy is caused by an infection, symptoms might go away completely when the infection is treated.How do I check my neurological status? ›
- Blood and/or urine tests.
- Imaging tests such as an x-ray or MRI.
- A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) test. ...
- Biopsy. ...
- Tests, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG), which use small electric sensors to measure brain activity and nerve function.
What is the best way to reset your brain? ›
- Develop Healthy Sleep Habits. Sleep is our body's method of resetting and replenishing itself—including (and especially) the brain. ...
- Eat a Healthy Diet. There's a deeper connection between the brain and the gut than most people realized. ...
- Meditation/Mindfulness Exercises. ...
- Get Outside. ...
1. Headache. Headaches are one of the most common neurological disorders—and there are a variety of different kinds of headaches, such as migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.What is the herbal medicine for neurological disorder? ›
Medicinal plants and natural compounds, such as Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), Ginseng, curcumin, resveratrol, Baccopa monnieri, Ginkgo biloba, and Wolfberry have been applied to prevent or alleviate neurological diseases and relief of neurological symptoms reported in in vivo or in clinical trails.What is the rarest neurological disorder? ›
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is an extremely rare, degenerative brain disorder. It affects about one in every million people per year worldwide. People with CJD typically develop symptoms later in life and may show changes in behavior, memory troubles, lack of coordination and vision problems.Can exercise cure neurological disorders? ›
- Patients with neurological disorders who exercise experience less stiffness, as well as reduction in, and even reversal of muscle wasting. - Research also has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination in patients with Parkinson's disease.Can nervous system problems be cured? ›
While there is no cure, there are medications and therapies that can help manage symptoms.What does neurological damage feel like? ›
Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. Feeling like you're wearing a tight glove or sock. Muscle weakness, especially in your arms or legs. Regularly dropping objects that you're holding.What are neurology red flags? ›
The three most important 'red flag' symptoms that indicate that a patient may need neuro-ophthalmological assessment are: Sudden onset of double vision (diplopia) Headache accompanied by vision loss (without an ocular cause) Visual loss after ocular causes have been excluded.What are 4 things neurologists check during a neurological exam? ›
There are many aspects of this exam, including an assessment of motor and sensory skills, balance and coordination, mental status (the patient's level of awareness and interaction with the environment), reflexes, and functioning of the nerves.What is finger to nose test? ›
The Finger-to-Nose-Test measures smooth, coordinated upper-extremity movement by having the examinee touch the tip of his or her nose with his or her index finger. On one variation of the test, the examiner holds out his or her finger, about an arm's length from the patient.
Does sleeping reset your brain? ›
More specifically, when one sleeps, the brain resets itself, removes toxic waste byproducts which may have accumulated throughout the day . This new scientific evidence is important because it demonstrates that sleeping can clear “cobwebs” in the brain and help maintain its normal functioning.How do you remove toxins from your brain? ›
If you're looking to detox your brain, prioritize getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly. Both of these will bolster up your brain's built-in detoxification system.How do I completely rewire my brain? ›
One of the best ways to rewire your brain is to distract it. When you find yourself caught in a mental loop of self-sabotage, start singing one of your favorite songs out loud. If you have extra time, you can immerse yourself in a meditative practice or begin working on an art project.