19 Techniques to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System - Tiny Buddha (2022)

19 Techniques to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System - Tiny Buddha (1)

“Youcan’tcalm the storm,so stop trying. Whatyoucan do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” ~Timber Hawkeye

The sun is setting, the cold wind is gently blowing in my face. I’m sitting on a rock that’s about ten feet tall, overlooking the Peruvian city of Cuzco. I can hear dogs barking, groups of teenagers laughing, the low hum of traffic and the music blaring from cars in the distance. As it goes dark, the lights of thousands of houses begin to flicker on like fireflies.

I should be enjoying this picturesque scene, but I’m not. My mind is racing too fast for me to make sense of anything that I’m thinking.

The only thing I’m able to fixate on is the intense ball of worry that sits in the top of my chest. Every thought introduces a new problem and a restless attempt to solve it. But the thoughts themselves aren’t that important. They’re really just a manifestation of a physical tension that I’ve been holding onto for far too long.

This was my life with relentless anxiety.

For years I didn’t understand why I would get anxious, nor did I have the capacity to relax my body when the physical symptoms came to visit. Was I just born with a sensitive nervous system? Had life experiences conditioned me to be that way? Was it both? Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Anxiety was there and it was making itself heard, loud and clear.

Fortunately, I learned, slowly but surely, in both my work with others and my own personal experience, that anxiety could be tamed and reversed. But it was only after I was able to bring greater awareness to my body and progressively convince my nervous system that I was safe, and it was okay to be calm, that I was able to make any lasting change.

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Calming your body and mind doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice, but it’s a real possibility.

Here are nineteen ways to calm a highly sensitive nervous system.

1. Focus on the calmest part of your body.

Instead of sitting directly with uncomfortable feelings, sensations, and tensions, we can place our attention on wherever in our body we find a sense of calm. By doing that we can familiarise ourselves with relaxation and sit with it until it deepens. For example, your legs may be twitching, but perhaps you feel stillness at the back of your neck. Draw your attention there.

2. Set boundaries and manage your energy wisely.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, then you’re burning more energy than you usually would. And when your energy is low, it’s more difficult to regulate your feelings. That’s why it’s important to manage your energy wisely and not be afraid to set boundaries and say no to things that you don’t feel are in your best interest.

3. Self-soothe through affirmations.

Affirmations are only useful if they’re having a helpful impact on your state of being. Repeating positive phrases that you don’t truly believe in can actually have the opposite effect. So instead, choose an affirmation that feels true to you, such as “I am strong enough to survive this panic.” And try experimenting with how you talk to yourself—the tone of voice, pace, care behind the words—instead of just on the words you are saying. A slow, calm, and reassuring internal voice can be a great tool to calm the body.

4. Journal from the perspective of your stress.

Sometimes your anxious thoughts just need to be respected and expressed coherently by getting them out of your head and down on a piece of paper. Writing from the perspective of stress, exploring what’s fueling it and what it wants us to know, also helps us take a step back from our worries.

5. Journal from the perspective of your calm.

When you’ve written down your stressful thoughts, you can dialogue (and reason) with it from the perspective of a calmer and wiser voice.

6. Try Taoist Inner Smile Meditation.

This meditation is one where you feel a smiling energy in your body. Most people find this easiest to do by visualising a smile or bringing a slight smile to their face. The effect of the inner smile meditation is cumulative, and it can be an effective way to signal to your brain that you’re not under any threat.

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7. Finish the sentence “My nervous system wants to…”

This is another journal exercise that helps connect your thoughts to your feelings so you can take a step back from our thoughts. You may discover that your nervous system wants you to take a break, rest, or get some fresh air.

8. Create compassionate imagery.

Like the inner smile meditation, compassionate imagery is a way to tell your brain that you’re safe and it’s okay to relax. You might want to visualize a person or a place, either real or fictitious, where you’d feel the most calm, safe, and connected.

9. Increase bodily awareness.

Anxiety can feel like it comes out of nowhere, but that’s rarely the case. By increasing bodily awareness, either through meditation, yoga, or just regularly checking in with how you’re feeling, you can catch the early signs of tension in your body before they get too difficult to manage.

10. Slow down to six breaths a minute.

Studies have shown that six breaths a minute seems to be the number at which we get the most benefits in terms of relaxation. As most of us breathe a lot quicker than this, any attempt to reduce the rate at which we breathe—with a focus on extending the exhalation—is a useful practice.

11. Play around with your body language.

How we position our bodies and physically move through the world has a big impact on our emotional state. Bringing more awareness to how you’re holding your body from moment to moment—how you sit, stand, communicate, etc.—can help you to address habits of tension.

12. Establish a mindful movement practice.

It can be hard to remember to be aware of our bodies, which is why a daily or weekly embodiment practice is useful. You might want to try yoga, qigong or tai chi, the Feldenkrais method or the Alexander Technique, or any other practice. Just try to find something you enjoy and that works for you.

13. Dance.

Dancing is a great way to reduce stress and increase your bodily awareness. If you don’t like the idea of a formal practice, then this might be for you. And the good thing is you don’t need to get any special training or even leave your house—you can just blast your favorite song and get moving.

14. Visualize a future calm self.

Our minds are largely predictive machines, so when we expect to be anxious, that’s what will happen. We can begin to disrupt this cycle by visualizing a future state of calm, which sets a more useful expectation.

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15. Imagine your mind in slow motion.

This is just another trick to break out of unhelpful patterns. An anxious mind will move rapidly, whereas a mind that is intentionally moving slowly will start to move us out of a state of anxiety.

16. Laugh (even if it’s forced).

Laughter is another great way to take our body out of a state of stress. In fact, the reason we laugh might be an evolutionary signal that everything is okay and that a perceived threat has been averted. It doesn’t matter if it feels forced, your brain will still get the message and you might even find that you end up really laughing anyway.

17. Try chanting or singing meditation.

Both chanting and singing slow your breathing down and stimulate the vagus nerve, which is another quick way to transition from a state or fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest.

18. Hum.

Some people don’t like to chant or singing, but luckily humming does pretty much the same thing.

19. Visualize healthy and rewarding social situations.

A lot of bodily tension comes from an unconscious perceived threat in the world—particularly the social world. By visualizing healthy relationships and positive social situations, either real or imagined, we are convincing the social part of our brain that we’re connected and safe.

If my experience with anxiety and my work as a therapist has taught me anything, it’s that there is no best way to manage our nervous systems. There is only the way that works for you. By permitting yourself to experiment and play around with different techniques, you’ll be better positioned to uncover the most effective way to calm your highly sensitised nervous system.

Let us know in the comments which techniques have worked for you and if there are any that we might have missed!

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19 Techniques to Calm a Highly Sensitive Nervous System - Tiny Buddha (2)

About Benjamin Fishel

Ben Fishel is a transpersonal psychotherapist. He has a background in neuroscience, counseling and existential psychotherapy and is on a mission to help people improve their mental health with cognitive science and spirituality. Ben offers online therapy worldwide (with the exception of Canada & the U.S.). You can book aFREE 15-minute callto see if you’d like to work with him—and don’t forget tofollow him on Facebookfor more of his essays.

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FAQs

How do you calm a sensitive nervous system? ›

Here's how to get started moving again:
  1. Focus on breathing. Taking deep breaths from your diaphragm can quiet the nervous system.
  2. Start with small movements. ...
  3. Focus on one section of your body. ...
  4. Graduate to positions or thoughts of activities that previously would have triggered a pain response.
23 Sept 2020

What causes a sensitive nervous system? ›

Having a hyper reactive nervous system is a common consequence of stress-response hyperstimulation. As stimulation increases, so does the nervous system's sensitivity and reactivity. While this symptom can be bothersome, it's not harmful. It's just an indication of persistently elevated stress, and often, anxiety.

How can I repair my nervous system naturally? ›

Steps to keep your central nervous system healthy
  1. Step 1: Exercise on a daily basis. ...
  2. Step 2: Get plenty of sleep. ...
  3. Step 3: Expose your body to sunlight. ...
  4. Step 4: Add meditation in your daily routine. ...
  5. Step 5: Walk barefoot. ...
  6. Step 6: Drink green tea. ...
  7. Step 7: Food you eat matters.
29 Sept 2017

Do some people have more sensitive nervous systems? ›

Approximately 15-20% of the population experiences a Highly Sensitive Nervous System. Having a Highly Sensitive Nervous System means that our nervous system responds longer and more deeply to external stimuli.

How do you calm an overactive sympathetic nervous system? ›

Ways to keep the sympathetic nervous system from becoming overactive or excessive include lifestyle changes, such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, or other forms of mild to moderate exercise. Various exercises can train the sympathetic nervous system not to become overactive and may also be good stress reducers.

What foods are calming to the nervous system? ›

Check them out to set yourself on the path to a healthier nervous system.
  • Berries. If you are a fruit lover, we have great news—berries have natural properties that can boost brain health and calm your nervous system. ...
  • Whole Grains. ...
  • Bananas. ...
  • Dark Chocolate. ...
  • Green Tea. ...
  • Spinach.
16 Dec 2021

What is the most sensitive part of the nervous system? ›

The mouth and face is the location for 30-40 per cent of the body's sensory and motor nerves. It's the most sensitive part of the body. The nervous system is a key mediator of health and wellbeing.

What is the most sensitive nerve in the body? ›

The pain caused by pressure on the trigeminal nerve has been described as the most agonising known to humankind, but what does the nerve actually do? The number of injuries and illnesses associated with pain is inestimable.

What ruins your nervous system? ›

Injuries (trauma), especially injuries to the head and spinal cord. Problems that are present at birth (congenital). Mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or psychosis. Exposure to toxins, such as carbon monoxide, arsenic, or lead.

What vitamins heal the nervous system? ›

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 to drink to calm nerves? ›

Top 10 Drinks to Relieve Stress
  • Overview.
  • Water.
  • Lemon Balm Tea.
  • Chamomile Tea.
  • Warm Milk.
  • Tart Cherry Juice.
  • Kava Tea.
  • Green Tea.
12 May 2018

What herbs repair the nervous system? ›

Below are 5 herbs to support the nervous system that are easy to find, very safe, and effective to use long term for all ages.
  • Milky Oat (Avena sativa) ...
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) ...
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) ...
  • Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) ...
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

What hurts a highly sensitive person? ›

Characteristics of Highly Sensitive People

Are easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud sirens. Feel stressed when they have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Avoid violent movies and TV shows.

What do highly sensitive people struggle with? ›

HSP struggle to witness arguments, hear raised voices or see any form of physical violence because they are highly attuned to the emotions and energy of other people. They also tend to avoid conflict because they don't like the thought of upsetting others, or other people being upset with them.

Which nervous system triggers fear? ›

The autonomic nervous system has two components, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system functions like a gas pedal in a car. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers.

How do you balance an overactive nervous system? ›

Consider some of the tips below to help keep your autonomic nervous system in check.
  1. Rest often.
  2. Eat well.
  3. Practice deep breathing.
  4. Cultivate contentment.
  5. Recognize who and what provides you with energy vs who and what uses up your energy.
  6. Train your mind to stay out of negative emotions such as worry, fear, anger, guilt.
22 Dec 2017

What does an overstimulated nervous system feel like? ›

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.

What happens if your nervous system is overstimulated? ›

Some people who are overstimulated may experience extreme emotional or even physical discomfort. They may display extreme irritability, anxiety, or fear. Some may voice their discomfort by crying or throwing tantrums. Or, they may even show aggression.

Which fruit is best for nerves? ›

Berries, peaches, cherries, red grapes, oranges and watermelon, among others, are loaded with antioxidants, which help to decrease inflammation and reduce nerve damage. Plus, grapes, blueberries and cranberries have been found to be full of a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called resveratrol.

What is the fastest way to cure nervousness? ›

How to calm down quickly
  1. Breathe. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. ...
  2. Name what you're feeling. ...
  3. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. ...
  4. Try the “File It” mind exercise. ...
  5. Run. ...
  6. Think about something funny. ...
  7. Distract yourself. ...
  8. Take a cold shower (or an ice plunge)
22 Jun 2021

Can bananas calm your nerves? ›

Eating potassium-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds and bananas, may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Which 2 parts of the body are the most sensitive? ›

The forehead and fingertips are the most sensitive parts to pain, according to the first map created by scientists of how the ability to feel pain varies across the human body.

Which two areas of the body are most sensitive to touch? ›

The tongue, lips, and fingertips are the most touch- sensitive parts of the body, the trunk the least. Each fingertip has more than 3,000 touch receptors, many of which respond primarily to pressure.

Where are the most sensitive nerve endings in the body? ›

Our forehead and fingertips are the most sensitive to pain, suggests research that used lasers to give volunteers sharp shocks across their body.

Do sensitive nerves heal? ›

Sensory nerves are more resilient than motor nerves and can recover sensation months or years after injury.

What part of the female body has the most nerve endings? ›

The glans alone contains about 8,000 nerve endings. Your clitoris has more nerve endings than any other part of your vulva. Together, these nerves can produce a range of pleasurable sensations, depending on how your clitoris is touched and how sexually aroused you are.

Which part of the body does not feel pain? ›

The brain itself does not feel pain because there are no nociceptors located in brain tissue itself.

How do you reset your nervous system in 30 seconds? ›

Reset Your Nervous System in 30 Seconds | Dr Alan Mandell, DC

How do you detox your nervous system? ›

How to Detox Your Brain
  1. Get Enough Sleep. Getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to support your brain's natural detoxification processes. ...
  2. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Intermittent Fast. ...
  5. Minimize Toxin Exposure. ...
  6. Consider Supplements.
9 Dec 2020

Can 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 two important minerals for the nervous system? ›

Here are the vitamins and minerals you need to support your nervous system.
  • Potassium and Sodium. It impossible to talk about potassium without talking about sodium, or vice versa, when it comes to nerve function. ...
  • Vitamin B. B vitamins are vital for nerve health. ...
  • Vitamin E. ...
  • Calcium.
12 Sept 2017

Which Leaf is good for nerves? ›

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 spice helps nerve pain? ›

Turmeric. This super spice is loaded with health benefits, including helping to relieve nerve pain. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can be added to your diet to help improve your pain.

What causes a person to become highly sensitive? ›

High sensitivity is thought to have genetic roots, and some specific gene variants have been associated with the trait. But early childhood environments may play a role as well; evidence suggests that early experiences may have an epigenetic effect on the genes associated with sensitivity.

Are highly sensitive people mentally ill? ›

It is important to remember that there is no official highly sensitive person diagnosis, and being an HSP does not mean that you have a mental illness. High sensitivity is a personality trait that involves increased responsiveness to both positive and negative influences.

Is HSP a mental illness? ›

HSP isn't a disorder or a condition, but rather a personality trait that's also known as sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS).

How much sleep do highly sensitive people need? ›

Sleep is crucial for HSPs, so make sure its highly quality and your night-time sleep is long. Most HSPs need at least 8 hours, and many sleep over the average -- 9 or 10 hours nightly. If you're not getting enough sleep you WILL burn out and edge towards depression, anxiety and become less capable of functioning.

Why do HSP need more sleep? ›

Sleep is essential for HSPs to process their emotions and soothe their ramped-up senses. It's important to be aware of sleep-hindering habits, such as: overdoing. overidentifying with emotions.

What should you not say to a highly sensitive person? ›

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Highly Sensitive Person
  • Yes, we know we're sensitive. ...
  • “You're too sensitive.” ...
  • “Don't take things so personally. ...
  • “It's not that big a deal. ...
  • “SURPRISE!” (“Expect the unexpected” is not a phrase HSPs live by.) ...
  • “Let's go to this loud, crowded event!”
8 Jul 2022

How do you train your brain to stop the fear? ›

8 Successful Mental Habits to Defeat Fear, Worry, and Anxiety
  1. Don't figure things out by yourself. ...
  2. Be real with how you feel. ...
  3. Be OK with some things being out of your control. ...
  4. Practice self-care. ...
  5. Be conscious of your intentions. ...
  6. Focus on positive thoughts. ...
  7. Practice mindfulness.
3 Apr 2018

What organ is responsible for fear? ›

Fear Is Physical

As soon as you recognize fear, your amygdala (small organ in the middle of your brain) goes to work. It alerts your nervous system, which sets your body's fear response into motion. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase.

Where do you feel sadness in your body? ›

Along with the emotional baggage it carries, extreme sadness can cause distinctive physical sensations in the chest: tight muscles, a pounding heart, rapid breathing, and even a churning stomach. As you can see on the body map, survey respondents pinpointed the chest as a major spot for the manifestation of sadness.

What are the symptoms of an overactive 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.

How do you neutralize your nervous system? ›

Breathing deeply, with a slow and steady inhalation to exhalation ratio, signals our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body down. Long, deep breaths can also manage our stress responses to help decrease anxiety, fear, racing thoughts, a rapid heartbeat and shallow chest breathing.

What to drink to calm nerves? ›

Top 10 Drinks to Relieve Stress
  • Overview.
  • Water.
  • Lemon Balm Tea.
  • Chamomile Tea.
  • Warm Milk.
  • Tart Cherry Juice.
  • Kava Tea.
  • Green Tea.
12 May 2018

How do you balance an overactive nervous system? ›

Consider some of the tips below to help keep your autonomic nervous system in check.
  1. Rest often.
  2. Eat well.
  3. Practice deep breathing.
  4. Cultivate contentment.
  5. Recognize who and what provides you with energy vs who and what uses up your energy.
  6. Train your mind to stay out of negative emotions such as worry, fear, anger, guilt.
22 Dec 2017

What happens if your nervous system is overstimulated? ›

Some people who are overstimulated may experience extreme emotional or even physical discomfort. They may display extreme irritability, anxiety, or fear. Some may voice their discomfort by crying or throwing tantrums. Or, they may even show aggression.

How do you reset your nervous system in 30 seconds? ›

Reset Your Nervous System in 30 Seconds | Dr Alan Mandell, DC

What is the fastest way to cure nervousness? ›

How to calm down quickly
  1. Breathe. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. ...
  2. Name what you're feeling. ...
  3. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. ...
  4. Try the “File It” mind exercise. ...
  5. Run. ...
  6. Think about something funny. ...
  7. Distract yourself. ...
  8. Take a cold shower (or an ice plunge)
22 Jun 2021

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