Where our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” response – our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “rest and digest” response. I recently wrote about My Favorite Ways to Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System. (There’s also heaps of more info about the parasympathetic nervous system in that article!) Adding activities into my daily routines to help activate my parasympathetic nervous system has helped me, substantially. However, sometimes it’s not about adding in extra activities but rather taking some out. Some of my habits were keeping me in “fight or flight” and had to go. Here are the things I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
As a reminder: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be! Any claims in this article are based on my personal experience and research. Please read my full medical disclaimer before engaging with my content or anecdotes. Also, as a reminder, this post contains affiliate links to certain products and I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you make a purchase based off of my suggestions.
Things I Stopped Doing to Support my Parasympathetic Nervous System
Supporting our parasympathetic nervous system supports our overall well-being. It is also supports our life-sustaining processes within our bodies! In a nutshell, we want our parasympathetic nervous system to be in control if we want our bodies to function properly. While there are things we can do to support our parasympathetic nervous system there are also things we shouldn’t do in that same effort to support our parasympathetic nervous system. Here are the things I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
This one was so hard to let go of. I had heard the intuitive advice to stop drinking coffee for about a year before I finally gave it up. Caffeine, especially at the rate I was ingesting it, was doing more harm than good. Caffeine was interfering with my natural circadian rhythm and sleep schedule as well as increasing my heart rate a bit too much.
Overexposing Myself to Cold
I used to think that cold showers and cold plunges were good for me! I also loved sleeping in freezing cold bedrooms and blasting the AC. However, the more I leaned into it – the more I felt that the cold I was exposing myself to wasn’t the best for my body. Now, there’s science like this from the American Heart Association that suggests overexposure to cold might be more harmful than helpful. Our bodies like to be warm! Shocking my body with cold plunges, cold showers and cold air was one of the things I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
Late Night Snacking
When I was learning about aligning with my natural circadian rhythm I learned about how much of our restoration, regeneration and healing happens during the night. When we eat late at night it gives our body a big job to digest food at a time where our body should be focusing on regeneration and healing. I had to give up late night snacking in order to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
Rushing through meals puts a lot of strain on our digestion! Slowing down how quickly I eat and eating more mindfully also helped me to lean into intuitive eating on a deeper level. One of the ten principles of intuitive eating is “feel your fullness” and eating slower helps to bring more mindfulness into it.
Ignoring My Own Boundaries
Personally, I believe that a lot of the boundary chat is nonsense. I believe that we’ve gotten too “boundary happy”. We overthink boundaries and put up unnecessary boundaries that go on to become walls. I don’t believe that we need to create boundaries with everyone in our lives. I do, however, believe that we have to create boundaries with ourselves! And in order to support our parasympathetic nervous system – we have to stop ignoring those boundaries we set with ourselves.
Spending Time with Chaotic People
In honoring my own boundaries – I had to cut myself off from certain people. Some people are addicted to stress and chaos. They often even subconsciously create chaos and stress in their lives because they can’t relax. Expecting these people to change just sets me up for failure. Instead, I distance myself from those people.
Watching Action/Thriller, etc TV Before Bed
Our bodies, as intelligent as they may be, can’t decipher between real violence and perceived violence. That means that watching something where there is a lot of gunfire, violence, war, etc can activate our sympathetic nervous system. I stopped watching any type of action or thriller tv/movies before bed in order to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
Instead of watching things like The Lord of The Rings before bed.. now I watch things like Cinderella! (LOL)
Watching the News
Piggybacking off of ditching action/thriller tv… one of the things that I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system was watching the news. Most often, the things on the news are violent and upsetting. The horrible, sad stories that various news channels push made me feel hopeless, helpless, sad, angry, and sometimes even worse.
This was very hard to do at first because I felt that I wasn’t being compassionate towards the victims of the crimes and situations discussed on the news. However, I had to recognize that the news was pulling me out of my parasympathetic nervous system and into my sympathetic nervous system. I can’t show up for myself or my loved ones the way I want to if I’m in “fight or flight”.
Eating Artificial Ingredients
Our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our digestion. To support my digestion – I stopped eating artificial ingredients. Artificial chemicals aren’t compatible with our human biology! This was a change that I implemented over a couple of years until I arrived where I am now (on a 100% whole, real food diet). Here are seven ingredients I suggest avoiding, even in organic foods, if you’re looking for a place to start with eliminating artificial ingredients.
Pushing Myself Too Hard in the Gym
I love seeing how capable my body is! I’m more flexible and capable in my body today, at 35, than I was 30 years ago at five years old. However, there is a fine line when it comes to seeing how capable my body is. I tune into my body to know when its time to hit the gas pedal on my workouts but more importantly when its time to pump the brakes.
In order to support my parasympathetic nervous system I had to stop pushing myself too hard in the gym. I was forcing my body into fight or flight mode by putting my body under unnecessary stress.
As an entrepreneur and business owner for the last 15 years – taking myself out of “hustle mode” was super hard. However, when I started learning more about my genetic makeup as a woman… I knew I had to stop “hustling hard” in order to support my overall well-being.
Reclaiming my feminine energy as a female entrepreneur has helped me with this, so much! Another thing that has helped me to settle into letting go of hustle culture was accepting my hormonal changes as a woman. Where a man has a 24 hour hormonal cycle and can wake up and do the same thing over and over each day.. women have a 28-day hormonal cycle and our productivity levels change throughout the phases of our cycle. Aligning my business activities to my menstrual cycle has helped me to settle into my feminine energy in business while also supporting my parasympathetic nervous system.
There is so much out there that push the positive benefits of fasting. However, new evidence shows that in women (who are in their reproductive years/still menstruating) fasting may do more harm than good: increasing estrogen production, unnecessarily. The stress of not eating was too much for my body. I stopped intermittent fasting in order to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
Thankfully, I haven’t suffered from road rage in quite some time. However, I used to have CHRONIC road rage. I even joked about how I once kept a cup of pennies to throw at cars on the road that angered me in this video. Getting angry and upset about the things that stupid people did on the road was putting my body under unnecessary stress! Ditching road rage was one big thing I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system.
Pushing My Feelings Away
Over the last few years I’ve learned more about tending to my energetic body. When we push our feelings away, refusing to feel them, they often store within our bodies. This “storage” of feelings often puts our body under unnecessary stress.
I put together a handy guide on how to remove stored emotions from the body and lose energetic weight. I also wrote about my favorite spaces and places to feel your feelings. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for our feelings is give them the space to be felt.
Being Chronically, “Late”
I often joke that I have the time management skills of a toddler. I underestimate the hell out of the amount of time something will take. This resulted in me being chronically late to things and caused me to have to rush. There’s nothing that puts you in fight or flight quite like unnecessary stress. And rushing because you’re behind schedule is definitely unnecessarily stressful. One of the things I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system was being late all the time!
While keeping ourself in “rest and digest” 24/7 isn’t feasible… ensuring that our lifestyles support the activation of our parasympathetic nervous system is so important! I hope this list of things I stopped doing to support my parasympathetic nervous system was helpful. I’d love to hear some of the things you do (or stopped doing!) to support your parasympathetic nervous system!