Supporting your nervous system right now and as we approach the exciting and activating time of summer- especially if you live in a seasonal tourist location- is going to be paramount in maintaining your health and wellness on a mental and physical level.
There are two branches of your nervous system- rest, digest and repair (parasympathetic) and fight, flight, freeze, collapse (sympathetic). Your nervous system is consistently regulating between these two states in response to incoming information. The nervous system is deciding how it can keep you alive. It is a primal system, much like the rest of our biological make-up. To simplify it, your nervous system is continually asking the questions: Are we safe or are we in danger? Is it time to act or time to digest? I mean the biggest definition of digest- digesting not only food but experiences- past, present and future.
Your body isn’t exclusively in one state or the other but one will be more dominant at any given time.
It isn’t the goal to always be in a parasympathetic dominant state (rest, digest, repair) but to find an ebb and flow between these two states that is appropriate. When you’re running on the treadmill, building sweat and breathing heavy, the body has the idea that you are running from something, potentially for your life, so it’s sending all the blood to the large muscles of your body- heart, legs, arms, glutes- because you need energy to continue running. It’s action based. When you are doom scrolling on Instagram, the body is responding to the incoming videos, pictures and words as if you are experiencing them. Take note next time you’re doing this; is your heart rate going up? Are you holding your breath? Are you clenching or grinding your jaw?
It’s not to say that you can’t do these things, going for a run is a great ritual. Keeping up with the news, if it’s important to you, is okay too! Just know that after, your cool down ritual is very important to regulate your body. Knowing this might also help you make decisions with your limited time. If you have one hour in the day to dedicate to your health, decide if you would benefit more from a run or gentle yoga.
Being on the massage table in a safe environment, belly breathing in a gentle yoga class or being in the bath or somewhere else you feel safe is going to bring you in to a state of rest, digest and repair. The blood in your body is going to your digestive system and dilating your blood vessels to allow for more blood flow while lowering blood pressure. Your metabolism will activate and your body will spend energy on repairing the body and sending nutrients to the places that need it. This state is necessary to digest your food efficiently. This is why finding this state before eating is so important. If you suffer from bloating, indigestion, constipation or other digestive upset, this will be a practice to being implementing. When you digest your food efficiently, you have more energy to put towards other things and you will be getting more nutrients because you are able to absorb the nutrients you’re feeding yourself.
You know how when you hop on a massage table, part way through your tummy starts to make noises? Firstly, the noises are called borborygmi and I think that’s hilarious. Secondly, this is because you are entering this rest and DIGEST state. Your body finally has a chance to digest. Maybe you’re someone who cries on the massage table or falls asleep, both of these are releases that lend a nod to your parasympathetic nervous system turning on.
Making yourself a schedule to keep up with the demands of your life is going to save you physically and mentally, and those around you. Book bi-weekly bodywork, talk a friend in to trading massages or make sure you’re getting to a class or a place that can help you release the tension of your demanding life. It’s not about not doing your life the way you are, there are times that call for the hustle! It’s just about planning for it.