High-Stress? Learn How To Reset Your Nervous System
Sent on 11th February 2023
Do you prefer to listen? here's the audio version:
It's Bruna here, happy weekend!
In this week's issue, I will share with you (literally) vital information and two tools to help you manage your stress. My clients find this learning crucial and you'll love it too!
It will take you about 4 minutes and 36 seconds to read, and you'll walk away with:
- An understanding of how your nervous system works
- Why stress can kill people and what you can do to stay safe
- Two tools to manage your stress and rebalance your body
An executive career comes with great benefits, but... What's the price you and your family pay for it?
To make it fairer, there's one crucial piece of information you MUST know about managing your stress effectively.
And that's how your nervous system functions and how to control it.
Did you know that you have 2 nervous systems?
The Parasympathetic System regulates your body in calm conditions and when you're at rest, sleep and feel safe. It regulates your breathing, digestion, and other bodily functions that keep you balanced and healthy.
The Sympathetic System, instead, gets activated by perceived danger and keeps you ready to fight or flee.
Now here's the VITAL information you must absorb: to get you ready to fight or flee, the sympathetic system automatically shuts down all the non-vital organs' activities so that all the resources gets redirected to the limbs. Look at the image below to get a better idea of what happens.
Stress, deadlines, pressure, responsibilities, judgement... the brain perceives all this as a threat so it automatically activates the sympathetic system.
Now THIS is why we say that “stress can kill people”. If the shutdown lasts for an extended period of time it means your organs aren't doing their job and you'll soon experience deficits that in the long run can lead to illnesses.
The shutdown is the reason why when you feel threatened (by a real or perceived danger), you can't think clearly. Your prefrontal cortex (the "rational" side of the brain) gets deprived of the oxygen and glucose necessary to think (which is a high-energy-demanding activity). Same story for your digestive system: when you're stressed, you don't digest properly and you may feel bloated, excessively hungry or experience a lack of appetite. And your sleep? Yes, that's massively affected too.
And here's the solution:
Ideally, you want to eliminate the source of stress, but we both know you often can't. So let's focus on what you CAN CONTROL: how to switch from the sympathetic back to the parasympathetic system and bring your whole body back to a healthy and balanced state.
You can do that in a few seconds with what I call the golden technique: diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing - that is inhaling deeply and focusing on filling the diaphragm, rather than just the chest, with air.
Here's how to do it:
- Find a comfortable seated or lying position.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, focusing on filling your diaphragm with air. You should feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Repeat this process for several minutes, focusing on breathing deeply and steadily.
Imagine breathing your way around a box:
- Inhale for four counts while you visualise going up one side of the box.
- Then hold your breath and pause for four counts visualising going to the other.
- Exhale for four counts while visualising going down.
- Then pause again for four counts.
- Repeat for ten times at least.
Other ways to switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic system are (no surprises here!):Exercise, mindfulness activities, and Yin-Yoga, which is a slower-paced form of yoga where positions are sustained for longer periods of time to unravel the body's deeper fascial layers (as opposed to working with the muscles in more dynamic movements). A special mention goes to enough sleep: a good night's sleep is in fact the only way to fully reset your nervous system (a bit of a catch-22 being also one of the very first things impacted by a stressful period).
Tip for better sleep:
- a warm night infusion containing herbs such as camomile, lavender, lemon balm, hops, peppermint and/or melissa.
- try a good guided sleep visualisation (plenty of them on YouTube)
Also, don't underestimate the importance of sleep hygiene:
- switch off all screens *at least* one hour before bed
- lower the lights and gradually help your brain transition into a sleep state with bedtime Yoga (again, YouTube helps here) and sleep-inducing sound
- exploit the benefits of lavender essential oil: spread it with a diffuser or spray it into the room before bed or directly on the pillow
NOW LET'S BREAK IT DOWN INTO ACTIONABLE STEPS
- Notice the tension in your body and rate your level of stress from 1 - 10
- If it’s 5 or over, take some time for yourself and practice the techniques: diaphragm breathing or box breathing
- If you have more time: workout if you can, otherwise just walk or run or practice mindfulness (if you’re not experienced, use a YouTube video that guides you through it), or practice Yin-Yoga
- Ensure you get good quality sleep (bedtime Yoga and night infusions can help)
All you have to do is learn how your internal mechanism works to be in control.
Give it a go, and then let me know how these techniques impact your life and career. Just hit reply and keep me posted, I read every email.
See you in two weeks, same place, same time.
Have a fab weekend,
P.S. Who do you know that can benefit from it? Help them by sharing it!