What is your Nervous System Telling You?

All feelings have corresponding sensations in the body.
Thats why we call them feelings.

That’s why we say “I feel angry”. These sensations are messages from your body written and sent just to you for your well being. They tell you whats happening with your nervous system, and provide clues to what you need.

How do you feel when you are in nature with nothing to do vs. after just realizing you’ve lost your wallet?

There’s a different physical feeling between these two experiences, huh? That sensation you’re feeling is your nervous system sending you messages.

If you want to know the science behind the nervous system, here is a great 2 minute video on it, but I am intentionally not going in depth into it because you don’t actually need to be able to remember the difference between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to be able to decipher what it is telling you. I like to teach clients to tune into whether their system is overactivated (hyperaroused) or underactivated (hypoaroused) by looking our for the following sypmtoms.

Symptoms of Overactivation (Hyperarousal)

  • Increased heart rate

  • Shallow breathing

  • Sweating

  • Headaches

  • Buzzing Feeling

  • Restlessness

  • Impatience

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Heightened startle response

  • Trouble winding down

  • Muscle tension

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Impulsivity

  • Flashbacks

Symptoms of Underactivation (Hypoarousal)

  • Low energy

  • Low affect

  • Lack of motivation

  • Unable to think

  • Apathy

  • Fatigue

  • Stuckness

  • Numbness

  • Shame

  • Disconnected

  • Shut down

  • Dissociated -feeling not there

  • Feeling of emptiness

  • Depression

Once you’ve identified what you’re nervous system is telling you, the next step is figuring out what you need in order to return to a balanced state. Below are some activities that can help bring you towards a comfortable baseline, depending on where you’re starting from.

Practices that help Address Underactivation or Hypo-arousal

Practices that help Help Address Overactivation or Hyper-Arousal

It takes practice to know what we need. Something I see often in my practice is people longing for a feeling of rest but not knowing what to need or how to ask for it. Tuning into your nervous system is one of the most reliable ways to build awareness about what you need moment to moment. If you can catch the little moments, before you’re totally depleted or totally triggered, you’ll feel more balanced and spend less time recovering from overactivation or underactivation.

If you’d like help tuning into your nervous system to support your overall wellbeing, please reach out.


Emily Adams