Life can sometimes times feel like one storm after another, and, during these uncertain times so many people are facing unprecedented mental and emotional challenges. In times of turmoil and immense external pressure, our body can easily be pushed to make stress hormones designed to help us run and fight in the face of a life-threatening situation. Yet for many of us, we are not facing a life-threatening situation. Like an awake nightmare, our stress hormones are fuelled by unhelpful thinking, this is when we worry and think the worst-case scenario too often. It can be exaggerated when we exclude hope. The external and internal pressure we face on a daily basis can activate the sympathetic (S) nervous system, the only part of the nervous system where we can make stress hormones. It is said that we can’t control the weather, but we can dress for it.
The most powerful antidote to high levels of stress hormones coursing through our bloodstream is to switch into the part of the nervous system that does not make stress hormones, the parasympathetic (P). Its job is to rest the body’s systems, digest food, repair cells and build the immune system (to name a few). In a word, the (P) system can be considered our healing system.
Activating (P) is a non-negotiable for your body. Simply put without this essential activation every day, your body is incapable of balance, healing and repair.
Remember (no matter how intense the business of life feels) to prioritise balancing your nervous system. This means switching off and relaxing for short intervals in between tasks and longer periods every day.
Activating the P system feels like you are completely relaxed not really motivated to do anything. It is a “non-doing” zone activated by the brain only when it is safe to do so, this means no threats real or perceived. This also means settling your mind, so find something that helps you to stop worrying.
Stress Resilience Strategies
Activating the rest part of the nervous system is different for everyone so explore what works best for you. Here are some ideas.
- Make sure you take rest breaks throughout the day, even if it is just for 5 mins
- 90 seconds of deep/diaphragmatic breathing whilst thinking grateful thoughts in between your tasks
- Take time out for lunch, without looking at your phone
- Sit down, slow down, chew your food and eat mindfully
- Look at the trees and the sky and be grateful for their presence
- Review your happy memory/holiday photos for 5-10 mins
- Close your eyes and imagine being hugged by your loved ones
FOR LONGER PERIODS
- Remember to slow and deepen your breath often
- Use a wind-down ritual before bed: bath, stretch, read, avoid the stimulation of the digital world before sleeping instead connect with your family
- Develop a hobby, something creative like journalling, colouring in, taking art classes, pottery, writing music, knitting, or sewing.
- Listen to music that relaxes you
- Spend quality time relaxing in nature: maybe a picnic in the park, visit the beach, lying on grass looking at the garden or the sky, find a beautiful view and sit taking in the scenery
- Cuddle and kiss your children and family
- Float in a pool/lake/sea
- Do qi gong
- Meditate/ do a visualisation
- Have a massage
- Read and/or watch movies and documentaries that touch your heart
Explore more elements of wellness in Sharon’s new book co-authored with Dr Karen Coates, How to Be Well: A handbook for women.
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