Pre pandemic life, the pandemic life, work stress, the ever-evolving nature of relationships, poor sleep, conflict, health-checks, ambition on overdrive, and the list of things long enough to puncture the high-functioning adult = BAAGGHHH! The end result: you have a dysregulated nervous system that can put you in flight or fight mode—often resulting in digestive issues, headaches, unexplained body pain, and physiological responses like racing heart, dizziness, panic attacks, and a perplexing state of ‘wth’. Happy to report you can reinstate a sense of calm and temper your feeling to get your wigged out nervous system back in line.
Here’s how to live your best life without eager stressors playing truant.
1. Slow down and take a deep breath
According to a study published in ‘Plos One’ by Devon Brunner, Amitai Abramovitch, and Jospeh Etherton, the physical and cognitive benefits associated with yoga and mindfulness may be due to mechanisms including pranayama and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Cue: Whether you are at work or at home, for each breathing technique you can sit comfortably on a chair, or a yoga mat on the floor. As you inhale, expand your abdomen, and when you exhale, contract the abdomen with focussed attention on how your breath travels, shutting down any intrusive thoughts while you are at it.
2. Stick to the 30 to 90 second rule
“When you experience something (event or conversation), there is an initial biochemical and electrical surge that usually lasts for 30 to 90 seconds when your unconscious and conscious mind is adjusting and processing incoming information,” explains Dr Caroline Leaf, neuroscientist, mental health expert and host of Cleaning Up The Mental Mess podcast. She recommends, taking a long deep breath, so that you expand your ribcage and focus on a solid exhale. Repeat this three to five times. Only if it’s possible and you have room to make some noise, yell out loudly, or in your mind. In the end, do something physical like burpees or stretching.
3. Your brain and nervous system seriously love healthy fats
Eating healthy fats like nuts, avocado, nutty fish, ghee, or clarified butter helps cushion your nervous system. As per study published in Pub Med Central, the interplay between exercise and dietary fat regulates myleinogenesis. What does myelin do? It’s an insulating material that coats your nerves and helpyou to speak, see, feel and think. When worn out or damaged it causes problems throughout your body and brain. Load up on those nuts already!
4. Weight training wins
In an article published in the ‘Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports’, Olympic weightlifters showed that lifting weights benefited kinesthesia, the body’s ability to sense movement, location, and the reason we are all able to move freely. If you are starting out, you don’t really need heavy duty equipment, instead, start off by using resistance bands. A study carried out by Dr Isabel Glover and Professor Sturary Baker from the Movement Laboratory at Newcastle University found that before we start to see any physical improvement from weight training, our nervous system starts to get stronger and stronger. Weight training doesn’t just help build muscles, it can make our brains, bodies, and minds stronger and more resilient with time.
5. Shake it off. Seriously!
Release excess adrenaline, stagnant, or stuck energy from your system by shaking, bouncing, dancing, and progressive muscle relaxation. In Dr. Peter Levine’s book, ‘Waking The Tiger’ he makes a strong case for animals who engage in shaking to release trauma from their bodies. Shaking therefore is a biological cue to the limbic system in the brain that danger has passed and you can calm the fight-or-flight response from the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Dr. David Berceli, the creator of Tension and Trauma Relaxing Exercises (TRE) through his work in high conflict zones found that adults often suppressed quivering which is often a natural relief response. One of the reasons why ‘shakedown’ as a warm-up is used in theatre is to get rid of performance anxiety and transform it into excitement.