Central Nervous System: Shifting Clients from Stress to Calm
Treating the central nervous system can help facilitate changes in the body
Many clients come into my practice stressed and traumatized from daily life in general. I can hear it in their voices, see it in their postures and both see and feel it in their bodies.
So, how can we best help our stressed clients?
One way I like to assist these clients is by helping to calm down their central nervous system.
Indications of an Activated Central Nervous System
You can assess your client’s nervous system in standing. When standing behind them, gently placing your hands on their shoulders and seeing what you sense in their body:
- Do you feel tension in the shoulder and neck muscles?
- Do you sense a buzziness in their nervous system?
- Does their body feel grounded or not?
- When they lay on the table, does their body feel like it’s floating on top?
If you notice any of these, they can be an indication that your client’s central nervous system is activated and could use some support in relaxing.
Overactive versus a Calm Nervous System
When the nervous system is overactive, it’s like they are a fan stuck on high at top speed. Some people don’t even realize they are stuck on high. This is their “normal” setting. However, they don’t have any access to lower speeds in their nervous system.
Ideally, a nervous system is calm and peaceful most of the time, and then when situations arise, it can ramp up to meet the demands of the situation. It will then return to its normal, resting, and calm level once it is no longer facing the situation.
Introducing a State of Calm to the Nervous System
When treating a client with an overactive nervous system, your aim is to help the body experience a calmer state of being. In other words, you want to turn the fan level to low. Returning the nervous system to a calm state doesn’t mean it won’t return to a high, overactivated level when your client leaves your office, but it does mean you have, hopefully, introduced your client’s body to a new way.
When you sense a calming of your client’s nervous system in your session, point this out to them. Help them to feel the difference in their body. Ask them questions about how they feel:
- What do you notice differently in your body now versus when you came in?
- How does your body feel on the table right now?
Let them know their body has another way of being. When they notice the overactivation again, explain that they can now access this newer lower activation level with breath and awareness.
Benefits of a Calm Nervous System
When the nervous system is calm, the body is more open to making changes. A stressed-out body is fighting to keep things the same. If you want to get tightened muscles to relax and fascia to unwind or release, it will be much easier to do so when the nervous system is down-regulated.
It is important to help your clients understand that the nervous system is meant to have variability. We can’t stay on high all the time. We need to find states of calmness throughout the day. Help them plan ways to access this new chilled state in the craziness of day to day life.
Central Nervous System Techniques
Learn how to calm the nervous system in the Advanced Postpartum Techniques course that will be available at the end of June 2023. For more information visit the Institute for Birth Healing.