Building our Emotional Intelligence; Understanding the Nervous System

Building our Emotional Intelligence; Understanding the Nervous System
Emotional Intelligence has become a hot topic of conversation in society over the last few years. Expanding our own -and our kids'- vocabulary around emotions, having more awareness of the physical sensations in our bodies when a feeling comes up, helping our kids 'regulate' their emotions and learning how to regulate our own is now all the rage. 

But here is the catch; we can read all we want about how to emotionally regulate, build our vocabulary, help our kids build empathy, show them strategies to go back to 'the green zone', but if we are constantly busy, constantly stressed and exposed to high demands of daily life, it becomes increasingly challenging for our nervous system to get back to the level of 'normal' which it needs to deal with daily life in a healthy way. 

Repeated exposure to stress over time can affect our nervous system in the same way as a traumatic event can. It gets damaged, leaving us on constant high alert (hypervigilance). As a result, it becomes super hard for us to regulate and, showing our kids how to do it? Well, you might as well forget about it. 


So let's have a little look at our nervous system. As a Primary School Teacher and Coach I do love a good analogy, so here goes:-

Imagine your nervous system as a superhero trying to keep you safe. When you face stress, like a tight deadline or a scary situation, your superhero nervous system springs into action.

Your superhero has two main modes - fight or flight (and freeze, which I will leave out here for the purposes of this article). In "fight" mode, you gear up to face the stress head-on. In "flight" mode, you're ready to run away from it.

Stress activates special superpowers in your superhero. Your heart beats faster to pump more blood, your muscles tense up, and you start breathing quicker. These changes help you think and move faster.

It's like a quick energy boost! Your superhero gives you extra power to deal with the stress. Great for short bursts of action.

Once the stress is over, your superhero wants you to go back to normal. Your heart slows down, your muscles relax, and everything goes back to the way it was.

But, here's the catch: Repeated Stress = Tired Superhero

If you keep facing stress all the time, your superhero gets tired. The constant alertness can wear out your superhero, making it harder for them to respond effectively.

Now Imagine the Vagus Nerve as a wise sidekick to your superhero nervous system - The Robin to Batman. The Vagus Nerve is like a calming guide, and its main superpower is to help your superhero switch from "fight or flight" mode to "rest and digest" mode. This gives your superhero a chance to take a break, chill out, and focus on recovering from the stress.

In other words, when stress hits and your superhero goes into action, the Vagus Nerve is there to keep things in check. It's like the voice of reason saying, "Hey superhero, we need to handle this stress, but let's not go overboard."

As the Vagus Nerve does its thing, it slows down your heart rate, helps relax your muscles, and promotes a sense of calm. It's like a superhero spa day, rejuvenating your superhero for the next adventure.

Your superhero and the Vagus Nerve work together to maintain a balance. They know when it's time to be alert and when it's time to relax. It's like having the perfect team to handle any situation.

But, here's another catch - Just like your superhero can get tired if stressed too much, the Vagus Nerve can also get a bit sluggish if stress is constant. This makes it harder for the calming effects to kick in, and your superhero might struggle to find that perfect balance.


Some ways in which you can strengthen your Vagus Nerve:
  1. Drinking cold water through a straw
  2. Having Cold showers
  3. Deep Belly Laughing
  4. Singing or humming
  5. Deep breathing exercises
  6. Gentle massages, especially around the neck
  7. Yoga
  8. Mindfulness and meditation
These will build vagal tone, which will increase the body's ability to calm you down when under pressure. Great for people who struggle with anxiety.

Some ways in which you can calm your Nervous System:
  1. Listen to calm music
  2. Ground yourself and connect with nature. Go barefeet and dig your toes into the ground. Hug a tree. 
  3. Warm baths & aromatherapy
  4. Limit stimulants 
  5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  6. Guided Meditation
  7. regular exercise
  8. dancing
Add these activities into your regular routine, not just for yourself, but do them as a family. Make conversation and practices around the nervous system, emotions and helping to regulate ourselves part of your life. In a world where things are moving at 100 miles per hour, we need to consciously start learning to stop, to take care of our nervous system and our bodies. To build physical resilience so that we can be better equipped to deal with the emotional and mental challenges which are way too common for most of us. 

Did you find this article helpful? I would love to hear how you get on in life with balancing your life so that you can find the calm you need. Or do you need more support? I am here to help. Contact me for a FREE chat.