The nervous system is at the heart of our daily experience and works in the background outside of our conscience awareness. It can shape the way we experience the world, including how we think and feel about food and our bodies. It also can affect our digestion, heart rate, and immune system.
You’ve likely heard of the gut-brain connection. Part of that connection includes the vagus nerve, which carries an extensive range of signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa.
Did you know there are 3 modes that your nervous system supports and will switch between throughout the day? According to the polyvagal theory, they are:
- Safe and Social mode – feeling comfortable, connected, and safe in our environment
- Fear or Flight mode – feeling anxious, threatened, fearful, or wary of surroundings
- Shut Down mode – feeling dissociated, numb, disconnected, tired, shameful
All modes are helpful in some way for our survival, but as you can probably guess we feel and function our best in that safe and social mode.
A high level of stress/anxiety or unresolved trauma can make it hard to stay or get in the safe and social mode. This can make eating mindfully and being in tune with your body quite challenging.
That is one reason why your Well Balanced dietitians encourage you to build up your self-care toolbox. These activities often build resilience and support a calmer nervous system. It’s part of the mind-body connection that can improve your well-being, support a healthy digestive system, and make it easier to build healthier eating habits.
4 ways you can support your nervous system.
- Listen to your favorite music while paying close attention to the lyrics and instrumentals.
- Breathe in slowly to the count of four and release to the count of seven. Do this for 5 minutes.
- Do some gentle stretching, even if it’s for just a couple of minutes.
- Watch something funny.
Hungry for more info about your nervous system?
- Listen to this episode of the Health Geeks Book Club Podcast.
- Read the book: Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System
- Watch this video explanation of the Polyvagal Nervous System