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  • Writer's pictureGuy Gourley

Are You Overfunctioning? How to Calm Your Nervous System and Regain Creativity

I have to laugh at myself when I’ve got a big speaking event, or I’m trying to write a blog or, for that matter, a novel. I can get so wired up that I go into analysis paralysis.

You’re probably thinking, “Guy, you’re a therapist. Shouldn’t you have it all together?” No, that’s a myth. We’re all in the same boat. When something is important to you, and you want to do a great job, it is easy to over-function.

Why do we over-function?

What is over-functioning?

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I have a big speech, and I’ve got to prep for it. I was excited and looking forward to the challenge, but then… doubt started creeping in. What if it is not good enough? What if I’m not good enough? So, what do I do? I double down.

I fire up my grit. Grrrr….

I start reading, researching, writing, revising, re-writing, studying, reading, and pushing more until I conclude, “It’s just not good enough.” Then nervousness and anxiety start revving their engines. “I must work harder.” Then after trying harder and harder and keep hitting roadblocks, I finally… want to give up.

However, here’s the deal.

The more anxious you feel, the more you’re in the “Fight or Flight part of your brain.” It is a small region of the brain called the amygdala. If anxiety gets high enough, it minimizes the prefrontal cortex responsible for reasoning, problem-solving, comprehension, and creativity. When you get emotionally flooded, your brain thinks it is under threat and goes into protection mode. You can try harder, but it’s difficult to “think your way out of being flooded.” Just like it takes flood waters time to recede, our brain needs time to recover and return to a state of calm and clarity.

How to calm down your nervous system and get your creativity back

Get up and move. Go outdoors. Movement moves mood. The four walls will actually make you feel stuck.

  1. Get some endorphins. Exercise, listen to music, laugh, dance, meditate, and be sexually intimate.

  2. Get some oxytocin. Connection and touch are powerful stress relievers. Hug or cuddle up to your loved one and it will promote bonding and relaxation.

  3. Get some oxygen. Take a deep sigh. Deep sighs release tension and your brain’s natural way of resetting your nervous system. Take a deep breath, breathe, then slowly exhale. You can also do a 5-sniff inhale with a long exhale.

  4. Get to bilateral tapping. You put your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. Then, you alternate gently tapping each shoulder in a consistent rhythm or pattern. It is clinically proven to relax the body. You can watch a YouTube video to see it in action.

  5. Get to Jumping: Jumping, even little jumps, increases oxygen, energy, circulation, and vitality. Get a little jumping trampoline for your office. Dancing works too.

  6. Get some Grounding: 5 Grounding Techniques using your five senses for anxiety calming (You can do the same thing with colors, Pick one thing with the color blue, pick two things with the color red…).

· Acknowledge one thing you can taste.

· Acknowledge two things you can smell.

· Acknowledge three things you can hear.

· Acknowledge four things you can touch.

· Acknowledge five things you can see

8. Get to praying and Biblically Meditating:

John 14:26-27 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

It is easy to get caught up in others’ expectations, performance, and the ways of this world but cling to the One who can give you real peace that truly calms your soul.

Everyone, from time to time, can get flooded and over-function. The key is to utilize some of these techniques and draw near to the One who can give true peace.

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