How To Calm Hypervigilance & Stop Feeling On High Alert

Restful Life
6 min read

Do you feel like you’re always on ‘high alert‘?

Like something terrible is about to happen at any moment? Or you feel anxious and tense, but you can’t really pinpoint why? Do you have a lot of trouble calming down?

That feeling of always being on high alert is called hypervigilance.

What Is Hypervigilance?

When you’re hypervigilant, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. You’re subconsciously scanning for threats and potential dangers.

You may jump or startle easily if you hear a loud bang. You may struggle with social anxiety and the fear of being judged. Or you might have a lot of trouble relaxing or falling asleep.

This can cause your brain and your body to feel like you’re constantly on high alert.

And constantly being on high alert is exhausting.

What Causes Hypervigilance?

Being hypervigilant could be a symptom of dysregulation due to trauma, or it could be because you’re a Highly Sensitive Person.

When you’re highly sensitive, you have a naturally high level of alertness. This vigilance is a natural trait, hard-wired into your brain and nervous system and it’s what helped our ancestors survive.

No matter what the cause, it’s important to be able to switch off your high alert button and calm your hypervigilance.

How Does Hypervigilance Affect the Brain?

Hypervigilance is caused by a number of neurological factors. The amygdala (the part of the brain that triggers a stress response) becomes overactive. At the same time, the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for calming this reaction) becomes underactive.

As a result, your brain is producing brain waves that are often keeping you alert.

When you’re alert, your brain is producing Beta brainwaves. They’re the ones that help you pay attention and focus. They’re very useful during work or any task that requires concentration.

However, when you want to relax, you want to switch off those Beta brain waves and start producing restful brain waves. Restful brain waves are the slower kinds of brain waves - Alpha, Theta and Delta.

4 Ways To Calm Hypervigilance

1. Listen to meditones®

Black pair of headphones on a white bed

Unfortunately, when you’re in a state of hypervigilance, it can be almost impossible to switch off. Which is why meditones can help you become calm.

Meditones are precisely tuned frequencies of sound. When these frequencies are combined, they create a humming vibration. Scientists call them ‘binaural beats’.

When you listen to meditones with headphones, your brain responds by creating calm brain waves - similar to ones you produce during relaxation and sleep. Which makes meditones an effortless way to calm hypervigilance.

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.

Discover hours of soothing meditones music inside the Restful app. Download for free today on Google Play or the App Store.

2. Breathwork

Pink neon sign of the words 'and breathe' over a wall of bright green leaves When you’re stressed your breathing becomes shallow and fast. So breathwork is about controlling your breath so you can consciously calm yourself down.

One of the quickest and most common forms of breathwork is 2-1 breathing. With this breath, you focus on exhaling for twice as long as you inhale.

When you lengthen the exhale, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The PNS is the calming arm of your nervous system and helps you:

  • decrease alertness
  • feel calmer
  • digest food, and
  • lower your heart rate

To begin 2-1 breathing, simply inhale for a count of 2 and exhale for a count of 4.

Keep breathing slowly and deeply for as long as you need. You can use this breath wherever you are, whenever you need.

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

3. Magnesium supplements

Magnesium is vital for cell and nerve function. It’s also responsible for regulating neurotransmitters that affect things like mood and energy.

Every cell in your body contains magnesium and needs it to function. However, you may not be getting enough of it, even if you eat a healthy diet.

This is because modern agriculture depletes soil nutrients like nitrogen and magnesium. This leaves our food deficient in magnesium. Which means many people are also magnesium deficient.

And because magnesium helps to regulate the nervous system, low levels of it may contribute to depression and anxiety.

Magnesium supplements can help:

  • reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • prevent or provide relief for migraines
  • improve mood and decrease PMS symptoms

If you have a medical condition, make sure to check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements. They’re safe and generally well tolerated but might not be suitable for people who take certain diuretics, heart medications or antibiotics.

Not all supplements created equal though. Avoid magnesium oxide – it’s not well absorbed and practically worthless.

The best supplements that are absorbed well include magnesium glycinate and magnesium orotate.

4. Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Close up of brown eyes with illustrated lines

EMDR is a psychotherapy that uses eye movement to reprocess traumatic memories. It helps people heal from the stress and symptoms caused by overwhelmingly disturbing events.

EMDR helps to calm the nervous system and reduce the ongoing effects of hypervigilance. It is an incredibly effective treatment that reduces and sometimes even eliminates the emotional distress associated with trauma.

It does this by changing how your memories are stored in your brain. This helps to dim the intensity of past memories, giving you greater capacity to process traumatic events without an overwhelming psychological response.

Since EMDR doesn’t require you to talk or think a lot about what happened to you, it may feel less overwhelming than other approaches used to treat trauma. So you may find EMDR particularly helpful if you have difficulty sharing the trauma you’ve experienced with others, including therapists.

You can find an EMDR-trained therapist, by searching:

Takeaway

Hypervigilance is the feeling of always being on high alert. It is a symptom of nervous system dysregulation but it doesn’t have to be a lifelong sentence. In order to calm hypervigilance, you simply need to calm the nervous system.

There are lots of ways to help create a calm mind and body. And by regularly experiencing calm, you’ll naturally rewire your brain and nervous system to be less hypervigilant and calmer more often.