6 Simple Ways To Calm Your Highly Sensitive Nervous System

Restful Life
5 min read

Imagine feeling overwhelmed or even in pain from everyday sensations that others barely notice?!

This is what it’s like to have a highly sensitive nervous system.

It’s like having a super-keen radar for everything around you — from bright lights and loud sounds to certain textures or tastes that can send your nerves into overdrive.

Sensory sensitivities can affect anyone. But they’re often stronger in autistic people, ADHDers or people with SPD.

If you deal with anxiety, PTSD, or mood issues you can be extra sensitive to the world around you too.

It’s like having a set of volume knobs for each sense, and sometimes, they’re turned up way too high for comfort.

So it’s critical to manage and calm a highly sensitive nervous system. Because unchecked sensitivity can negatively impact mental and physical well-being.

You could experience fatigue, insomnia, digestive problems, or poor mental health.

The good news? You can improve your quality of life by learning to soothe and regulate your nervous system.

Understanding Your Nervous System

Imagine your nervous system as your body’s central command centre. It’s a vast network running from your brain and spinal cord, with nerves branching out like communication lines to every part of you.

This intricate system:

  • gathers sensory information (sights, sounds, smells),
  • interprets stress and emotions, and
  • translates it all into the energy you need to function.

Within this command centre lie two key players: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Think of them as a gas pedal and a brake.

A mint green toy car sits on a wall with illustrated lines bursting out the back

  • The sympathetic nervous system: This is your body’s built-in stress response. When you encounter a perceived threat, it kicks in, releasing a surge of energy (think adrenaline) to help you react quickly.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system: Once the danger has passed, this system takes over, acting like a brake. It releases calming hormones (like oxytocin and acetylcholine) to bring your body back to a relaxed state.

A healthy nervous system excels at managing this energy flow. This means being able to smoothly shift from feeling stressed to feeling calm.

However, if your nervous system is constantly bombarded by stress or trauma, it can become dysregulated.

This can be like a car stuck in high gear, leaving you in a state of hypervigilance, anxiety, and overwhelm.

Over time, chronic dysregulation can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Dysregulation can also be a key element of neurodivergence, especially sensory sensitivities.

What triggers sensory overwhelm?

Any stimuli the nervous system processes can become overwhelming.

Stimuli can be both internal or external, like:

  • Hunger
  • Crowds
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Temperature (too hot or too cold)
  • Strong smells & artificial fragrances
  • Intense emotions (both pleasure & pain)
  • Complex sounds like overlapping conversations

Six Everyday Practices to Quiet Your Highly Sensitive Nervous System

1. Create a sensory oasis

Having a dedicated space allows you to retreat from the noisy world and recharge your batteries. Remember, your sanctuary is a reflection of your needs.

Don’t be afraid to personalise it with calming colours, comfortable textures, and objects that bring you joy. For example:

  • Lighten Up: Opt for soft, diffused lighting instead of harsh overhead bulbs. Consider using dimmer switches or Himalayan salt lamps to create a warm ambience.
  • Silence the Noise: Noise-canceling headphones are a game-changer for HSP & neurodivergents. Invest in a good pair to block out unwanted sounds during commutes, work, or relaxation time. Earplugs can also be helpful for specific situations.
  • Safe Stimming Zone: Stimming is a common way for neurodivergent folk to regulate sensory input. You could use fidget toys, stress balls or even blow bubbles to help calm you down.

2. Listen to meditones

Woman sitting on a couch with headphones on and her eyes closed, smiling

Meditones are binaural beats combined with contemporary ambient music.

Binaural beats are precisely tuned frequencies of sound combined to create a humming vibration.

When you listen to meditones with headphones, your brain responds by creating calm brain waves. Similar to ones you produce during meditation and restful sleep.

Which makes meditones an effortless way to gain the benefits of meditation without any effort.

By creating calm brain waves with meditones, you naturally soothe your nervous system and become calm. Without having to do a thing.

Plus, long term use of meditones helps you form stronger relaxed neural pathways – making it easier to become and stay calm naturally.

3. Practice breathwork

Deep breathing exercises help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation. You could try:

  • Box Breathing: Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold for four – repeat for several cycles.
  • Alternate Nostril Breathing: Close one nostril with your thumb, inhale deeply through the open nostril, hold your breath, then close the other nostril and exhale through the open one. Repeat by inhaling through the previously closed nostril and continuing the cycle.
  • Extended Exhale: Inhale for two seconds and then exhale for four seconds. Repeat this cycle a few times to feel yourself center and relax.

Animation of circle inhaling for a count of 2 and exhaling for a count of 4

All these breathwork tracks are available in the Restful app. Download for free today on Google Play or the App Store.

4. Regulate with movement

Movement is a powerful tool for calming a highly sensitive or neurodivergent nervous system. Exercise doubles down on stress relief - it lowers stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while boosting endorphins, your body’s natural mood-lifters and pain relievers.

Physical activity can also improve how the brain processes sensory information, filtering out overstimulation. Additionally, movement promotes better sleep and can even boost self-esteem.

Finding gentle exercises you enjoy, like

  • yoga,
  • walking,
  • dance, or
  • swimming

can be a game-changer for managing a sensitive nervous system.

5. Build a sleep sanctuary

Quality sleep is essential for nervous system regulation. During sleep, your body enters a restorative state. Your body repairs tissues, consolidates memories, and flushes out toxins. All vital for maintaining a balanced nervous system.

The good news is that you can cultivate sleep habits that promote nervous system regulation for a more restful night. Here are a few tips:

  • Consistency is Key: Establish a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Unwind Before Bed: Create a restful bedtime routine that signals to your body it’s time to wind down.
  • Craft a Calming Environment: Make sure your bedroom is a haven for sleep. Ensure it’s dark, quiet, and cool. Invest in blackout curtains, earplugs, and a comfortable mattress and pillows.

Remember, a well-rested nervous system is a calmer and more resilient one. Which is key for highly sensitive and neurodivergent people to thrive in a stimulating world.

6. Give yourself the gift of greenery

Two people crouch in a garden smiling as they dig in the soil

The constant stimulation of the modern world can be draining. The good news is, there’s a powerful antidote readily available: nature.

Spending time outdoors offers a multitude of benefits for a highly sensitive nervous system. Studies have shown that immersing yourself in nature can significantly reduce stress hormones, leading to a calmer and more peaceful state.

There are countless ways to embrace nature’s calming influence. Whether by

  • tending to a vibrant garden,
  • seeking solace in a local park, or
  • even practising “forest bathing” (a mindful walk in the woods)

Being in nature allows you to hit the reset button, fostering a sense of connection and belonging to something larger than yourself. So head outside, and allow nature to work its magic on your sensitive soul.


Having a highly sensitive nervous system can be a double-edged sword. You experience the world with an intensity that most don’t. But this sensitivity can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and drained.

The good news is, you’re not alone. Many people navigate the world with a similar nervous system. And there are a wealth of tools and techniques available to help you manage it.

Remember, self-compassion is key. Be kind to yourself as you experiment with different strategies. With awareness and self-care, you can transform your sensitivity into a strength. Allowing you to thrive in a world that may not always feel designed for you.

Discover a growing library of meditones inside the Restful app. Download for free today on Google Play or the App Store.