Making Time To Relax
Wow, I can really see how the world is opening back up. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding myself falling into the busy trap again. After months and months of few plans and open calendars, all of a sudden the days are filling up and the hours are slipping away.
In many ways I’m thankful for this change!
It’s an indicator of progress, but we must recognize that our bodies are still feeling the effects of the stress and trauma of the last year.
We can’t “go back to normal” honestly, what is normal anyway?
Today, I want to encourage you to actively make some open space in that quickly filling calendar for deep relaxation.
Our Nervous System
Making space is all about taking care of your nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts. The sympathetic nervous system, responsible for our 'fight or flight' response, and our parasympathetic nervous system which is essentially responsible for the opposite state of being. When in a parasympathetic state we are relaxed, resting, and digesting. Our breathing and heart rate slow, our digestion increases, and our bodies have time to heal from our stressful lives.
We can’t always avoid stress, but we can work to balance it out.
When we don’t find ways to activate our parasympathetic state, some very stressful things can happen in our bodies. Stress hormones key up your body to be prepared for danger, while suppressing non-emergency functions. One of these non-emergency functions is the maintenance of your immune system, meaning chronic stress can leave you vulnerable to other illnesses and infections.
The next time you take some time to rest and relax, don’t feel guilty!
It’s a very important rhythm for your body, your mind, and your life!
Finding the Parasympathetic State
A very interesting study demonstrates that spending time in nature can increase parasympathetic nervous activity by 55%, indicating real benefits, such as lowering our blood pressure and cortisol levels. This impact on our bodies not only provides short-term enjoyment and stress relief, but it can also continue to positively impact our wellbeing for weeks afterwards. In the same study where people spent 2 consecutive days in a forest, scientists observed that their immune systems were strengthened above their typical level for up to a month after returning to city life!
Other ways to relax
Another way we could be talking about this state of relaxation and finding our parasympathetic state is to throw in that overused buzzword, self-care. I didn’t start there because I wanted you to see the science first, but I really do encourage you to lean into the idea of taking care of yourself.
There is no way I would be able to work as hard as I do if I didn’t make extra time to relax, and I know you need it as well. Self-care and relaxation will be unique to each individual because it’s only helpful if it’s relaxing to you!
Here's my list of self care ideas from the 28-day Detox that may work for you or may spark an idea of something you could do!
- Take a hot bath in Epsom salts and essential oils
- Dry brush your body towards the heart
- Get a massage to move the lymph and relax the body
- Limit the time you spend with stressful people
- Limit your time in controlled air-conditioned environments
- Take a walk, hike, or bike in the outdoors
- Breathe the fresh air, slow down, be still, and just be in the moment
- Take your shoes off and stand on the dirt or in the sand
- Eat 6 cups of fiber-rich vegetables to move the stools
- Get a body treatment to flush toxins in the skin and lymph
- Take a yin yoga class to exercise with low stress
- Play a fun activity to sweat and release tension
- Read, meditate, or practice a meditative activity
- Cry sadness that has been plaguing you... get it all out!
- Relax and take a nap in the middle of the day
- Find a steam room or sauna to sweat out toxins
- Call a friend, agree to dump emotional baggage in turns
- Start a gratitude journal and write about the good things in your life
- Treat yourself to an orgasm and release neurotransmitters
I could add a number of other things to this list that relieves stress, but I think you get the point.
Consider making your own list of ideas that work for you and keep it somewhere to remind yourself to take breaks and recharge every day.
One of my go-to relaxation techniques is self-massage, especially when led by my dear friend Laetita King.
There are many studies that show massage can ease muscle pain, increase circulation, and lower your blood pressure. There is also some evidence that massage improves the quality of life of those living with cancer, fibromyalgia, and HIV/AIDS.
We also know that massage is a great way to relax, which once again puts our bodies in a parasympathetic state. What a beautiful way to boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and overall make you happier and healthier.
If you suffer from constipation, abdominal massage is proven to be a natural and effective way to treat the symptoms. This was my favorite way to help my babies when they were having gassy trouble. Just lie baby on their back, bend their knees into their tummies, and make gentle circles massaging their legs into their abdomen. Babies are incredibly flexible, and making silly faces throughout this process always makes this delightful.
My friend Laetita focuses many of her self-massage techniques on addressing the strain of bad posture and long days on our computers. I think these are pain points we can all relate to. Many of us spend the vast majority of our time looking at screens, often with our necks bent down, and our backs hunched forward. While we can’t get rid of these screens, maybe we can find some ways to be more aware of our bodies, and help correct the pain we have already caused.
On Laetita’s YouTube channel we can all learn how to ease the strain of these daily habits with some simple massage techniques. I love how she makes this powerful relaxation practice accessible to everyone!
Here is one of my favorite videos for neck tension.
You can also sign up for classes and 1:1 sessions with her here!
Go out and relax
Now that you know all about the importance of activating your parasympathetic state and the benefits of relaxation it’s time to go and put it into practice! Start by making a list of things that you find relaxing and set aside a chunk of time in your schedule to do them. Actually add them to your calendar so you know you will make the time.
I would love to hear about your experience with relaxation and self-massage. Follow along on my social media platforms and drop me a note to let me know how it goes!