How regularly allowing the sympathetic nervous system to “switch off” improves health.
In a world where stress, anxiety and fear seem to be states of being and emotional words that are on everyone’s lips, the ability to take breaks, to relax and restore, seems more essential than ever.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is one of two main divisions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Its general action is to mobilise the body’s fight-or-flight response. The heart rate increases, muscles contract and adrenaline surges through the body. We are in our survival mode. On the other hand we have the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) whose general function is to control homeostasis and the body’s rest-and-digest response. Heart rate decreases, muscles relax, stomach secretions and movement increases, so we can digest and restore.
When our nervous system is calm, (in a parasympathetic state) our immune system functions vastly better than when we are stressed, upset, angry or in anxious state. We can eat all the right foods, have a regular exercise regime and regard ourselves as fit and healthy but if our nervous system is not in a calm state it can be like an open invitation for stress and dis-ease to enter the mind and body.
If we are not aware of what’s happening in both our mind and body we fall pray to ills and the immune system is constantly sending out anti-bodies which can eventually attack healthy tissues and we then have auto -immune illnesses such as thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue, diabetes, inflammation issues in the joints such as arthritis and rheumatism . Sadly the list goes on….
Here are my top 5 tips to factor into your daily life to help maintain a calm nervous system :
It sounds so simple, I know. And I am sure many of you reading this already have a regular practicing of conscious breathing, be it in meditation, your yoga or tai chi practice.
Take time each day to JUST BREATHE for even for 5 minutes . Deep conscious breaths, eyes closed, from the abdomen, filling up the lungs completely taking in healing energy and with every exhale releasing stale thoughts and toxins that have built up within the mind and body. Let go….
2. Use Essential Oils
Bergamot, lavender and vetiver make a powerful blend for inhaling from a diffuser or from a personal inhaler. These are the oils in my Stress-Less inhaler.
You can also inhale from a bowl of hot water or again diffuse some drops of tea tree, lemon and eucalyptus essential oils to keep the immune system in optimal health. I have written about Bergamot and Eucalyptus at length in my earlier posts.
3. Yoga Asana
Of course a regular yoga practice helps to maintain a calm nervous system but for the moments where we find ourselves in distress the following poses can really help with calming the nervous system quickly!- Inversions – My favourite is headstand-Sirsasana- but equally Viparita Karani (laid on back legs up the wall), any standing forward fold, downward dog or shoulder stand have the immediate effect of calming. Hold for at least 10 deep breaths if you can.
Child’s Pose – Balasana- also helps us to relax the shoulders and spine which is where many of us hold tension.It is also a posture that promotes a sense of safety and being “grounded”, which again creates a deep sense of calm.
4. Spend Time Alone in Nature
Whether it’s 20 minutes or 2 hours, try and get out in nature as much as possible. Even a short break away from your desk/housework/kids to breathe some fresh air, watch the sunset, watch the trees dance in the breeze puts a bigger perspective on the world and is instantly calming for the mind, body and soul. For extra grounding, walk barefoot and focus your intention on the sensations around you – how the Earth feels on your feet, how the air feels on your skin, the smells and sounds in your environment, even for just a few moments, let it just be you and nature . You’ll come back feeling refreshed and much more peaceful.
5. Listen to Your Body
Many people even exercise to a punishing schedule, which may serve them in the short term but it is much healthier to listen in to your body and move consciously with more awareness depending on each day. Start a dialogue with your body . Each day I thank my body for all it does for me and I feel it has allowed my body to speak back, telling me when I need to push harder and also when I need to stop and just be.
Just like life, we can plan as much as we wish from our heads, but if it’s not in tune with the rhythm of our bodies, if we are forcing ourselves to do things against what our bodies are telling us then this can easily create disharmony in the body and put our nervous system under pressure.
I will end this with a popular analogy : Our bodies are like cars , if we don’t stop for rest and fuel, if we just keep driving and driving, we run out of gas. You take your car for its annual MOT , are you doing the same with your own very precious body? TAKE THE TIME to stop and take care of yourself, before the decision is no longer yours.
Love & Light ,
Kay the OilChemist