Welcome to Part 2! Here we will talk about what to do when it feels hard to relax, so you can feel as relaxed as this doggo looks!
Step 1: Get to know your nervous system - to understand how you can stop being activated when you want to relax.
Our autonomic nervous system is what sends automatic messages throughout our body & brain telling us either – “you are safe, you can be relaxed”, or “something is up, you need to be on alert”. Now, it is a lot more complicated than that – but this basic understanding was revolutionary to me. Because it meant that somehow I could influence the messages moving through my body and my brain!
Within the autonomic nervous system, there are two parts – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. One sends the message “something is up”! (sympathetic ) and the other sends the message “you can relax” (parasympathetic).
You can learn to affect these systems – like an accelerator (getting activated in response to stress) and a brake (the calming response that reduces activation).
Step 2: Activate your Brake - When you are preparing to have some rest or self care time, deliberately send messages to your body that will activate the “brake” (parasympathetic calming response).
The easiest way to do this is to give your body sensory information that tells it: "it's ok to be calm".
Choose one or more of the techniques that resonates with you:
Your SKIN: it's our largest sensory organ. Use a firm or soft touch on your arms, hands or fingers (think a self hug, running your hands up and down the sides or your arms, or gently massaging your fingers). You can also splash cold water on your face or hands.
Your BREATH: changing your breathing pattern tells your body it’s calm. The simplest breathing is a longer out breath (exhale) than in breath. Take a few of these breaths.
Your EYES: Your eyes are an extension of your brain. When we are stressed, they scan quickly for danger. Slow down the movement of your eyes by letting them land softly on objects on the room, moving your gaze around slowly.
Step 3: Bring your awareness back to your body
Notice what it feels like for your body to be calming down.
Notice where in your body you notice the calm feelings, and where do you still feel tension?
Note: if this feels hard, or uncomfortable - that's ok! Give your self a moment to connect with anything going on in your body, then come back out to whatever state feels comfortable (small doses over time can be helpful).
Step 4. Do something YOU find relaxing!
Don't take a page out of my book and read a work article! Do something that activates your senses, and brings your attention away from you thoughts.
This could be anything that makes you feel good. But some ideas are:
Get into nature, feel, see, hear, touch and smell what's around you
Pet your pet, or get a long hug from someone you love
Listen to music, or a guided meditation - put earbuds in, immerse yourself in the sound and the visualization
So just by understanding the physiology of the nervous system & your stress response, you can do something to activate the calming BRAKE in your body. This will give you a BREAK (pun intended!! 😊 ) in your mind and help to temporarily stop the overthinking & rumination.
Remember that these are first steps in a process of getting to know your nervous system! There are layers to undoing the effects of stress & anxiety – but stick with us and we will help you to unpack them with support and guidance. 😊 We all respond differently to stress and anxiety, based on our past and current circumstances. It’s important to give ourselves some compassion and be open to learning & exploring – that’s the way we grow!
In my monthly workshops, we talk about and practice a huge range of tools and techniques. Together each month, we work through a process of connecting with and gaining mastery over our nervous system and internal states using both the nervous system and subconscious mind. There is a new and exciting topic each month! For more nervous system magic, please check out my upcoming workshops in Winnipeg:
If you aren't in Winnipeg, join me for an online Nervous System Reset with Everybody in Mind Wellness Centre: https://everybodymind.com/event/nervous-system-reset/2022-07-28/
See my socials for more nervous system & subconscious tips and techniques:
Instagram - @crystalatrest
**Please note that this blog post is not a substitute for medical advice or information. If you have questions or concerns about your physical or mental health, please connect with a medical or mental health professional. If you have a history of trauma and these exercises feel unpleasant or difficult, I would encourage you to reach out to a qualified professional for support as you explore your nervous system.