Everyone at some point or another experiences stress and burnout. I think it's important to point out that there is good stress or eustress as endocrinologist Hans Selye coined and then there is bad stress or distress, everyone has different perceptions of stress so what your wife, husband, brother, sister experience as really stressful you may find exhilarating and will provide you with a sense of fulfillment and vice versa.
Due to everyone having different perceptions of what is stressful it's important to notice your own telltale signs of getting distressed and take the necessary action to enable your sympathetic nervous system, the nervous system that enables us to get things done and gets us fired up to take action a chance to take a back seat for a while and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that allows our body's to go into healing and repair mode and it is important for EVERYONE to take time to tap into this state daily but it is essential for people who are going through health challenges and stressful life events.
The human body is incredibly intelligent and it doesn't need a huge amount of time to be able to flip the switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic, you can feel the difference in just a few minutes. So the great news is it isn't expensive, you don't need any fancy equipment and it doesn't take masses of time :) All you do need is a commitment to your wellness and to be able to find some peace and quiet for a certain amount of time per day.
The first thing I recommend to all my yoga and massage clients is to learn how to breath properly and efficiently, there are many different types of breathing practices or pranayama but the most simple and effective breathing technique is learning how to do diaphragmatic breathing. So make yourself comfortable..you can do this in any position but to first learn it's easier to start by laying on the floor so you can allow your abdominal muscles to relax. Allow yourself to rest in a comfortable position and place your hands on to your belly, just begin to observe the breath first of all so you can draw your awareness inside, allow the breath to slow down and lengthen and feel the subtle sensation of movement under the hands, get a sense of the dome shaped muscle at the base of the lungs beginning to move downwards with each inhale and drawing up with each exhale. You can stay with this breath for anything from 3 minutes upwards and you will feel the difference in the cells of your body. Put a timer on your phone so you can take little pauses throughout your day so you can reconnect with this breath little and often.
Another way to be able to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system is restorative yoga and as a bonus you get a chance to practice diaphragmatic breathing. Restorative yoga is so wonderful in this busy world of doing because we can just allow yourself to be and allow your body/mind to sink into stillness and you may find that the more you allow yourself to do this the more your body craves it. If you find the only time that you allow yourself to relax is when you sleep you are missing out. My three favourite restorative yoga postures are-
Supta baddha konasana or reclined cobblers pose. If you don't have a yoga bolster all you have to do is get a couple of big towels and fold them in such a way that when you lean back onto them you get a nice elevation through the chest, bring the soles of feet together and allow the legs to drop open placing a couple of pillows or blankets/towels under the legs so it doesn't feel like they are hanging in mid-air. To make yourself more comfortable you may want to place a small towel under the head and cover the eyes with an eye pillow or small towel. Put some relaxing music on and stay here from 5 minutes up to 20 minutes.
Viparita karani or legs up the wall. I haven't met one person who dislikes this pose even the most active and sporty people love hanging out in this delicious pose. Grab a pillow or blanket and place under the pelvis, it can be a little tricky to get into as you have to come into it side ways but trust me it is so worth it. So sit sideways on the pillow or blanket and then shift yourself round so the butt is flush to the wall (if your hamstrings are on the tighter side you may need more of a gap), shuffle yourself into the most comfortable position you can find, press play on your favourite relaxation music, cover your eyes, tune into your breath, let go of all external distractions and enjoy!
Restorative balasana or child's pose. This is such a nurturing delicious pose, it may take a few props to get really cosy but I promise its worth it. So again grab some pillows and blankets, bring the big toes together and take the knees wide, pile the pillows and blankets as high as you need to so you can relax down into their support, you may need a towel in between the hamstring and calf muscles if you don't have full knee flexion and if you don't have much mobility in the ankle joint place something under the shin. If you're turning the head to the side make sure to turn the head both sides for an equal length of time.
The beauty of restorative yoga is its simplicity it may take some time setting up and getting as comfortable as possible but once there you just allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper into relaxation, focusing on smooth deep breaths and allowing the pose just to work its magic.
"Our world is becoming more busy and noisy.
Busy seems to be the mantra on everyone' lips lately...Oh no I'm far too busy to fit that in to my life, I've been up the walls, I'm up to my neck with it, I haven't stopped, I don't have time and my favourite I haven't had time to stop for a breath. People wear busy with pride as if busy is a shining example of leading a full, productive and successful life, but if busy is making you stressed out, is affecting the relationships you're in and stopping you from doing the things that bring you joy and happiness then perhaps it's time to reassess your relationship with busy. Sometimes busy can't be helped and if you find that you're getting stressed easily from having to juggle lots of commitments and want to keep your health and your sanity these are my eight top tips to help keep you on the right track.
1) Put Self-Care At The Top Of Your To-Do List- This is a must! Self care is the thing that gets shoved to the bottom of the pile the busier we get, this has to change. You will not only feel physically, mentally and emotionally depleted you will find yourself more susceptible to colds, flu's and illness if you continue to tend to everything but yourself first. When I talk about self care it doesn't have to be an indulgent, luxurious spa weekend away (although that's good too), self care SHOULD and NEEDS to be a built in part of your day just as much as brushing your teeth. It can be as simple as waking five minutes earlier than normal to sit in meditation welcoming what ever quality you want to infuse your day with into your body and mind, having a gratitude diary and writing five things that you're grateful for so you start the day with a more positive outlook, it could be a few minutes of gentle yoga stretches to open your body and mind for the day ahead. It could be as simple as setting a reminder on your phone to pause and find the time to breathe, doing 2-3 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing is a must in my life, it helps turn off the stress response helping you to tap into the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system helping to calm your body-mind and not only does it feel calming but it can also have an energizing effect as you begin to bring more oxygen into your body-mind and allowing more circulation and energy to circulate rather than being stagnant. For more self care tips please see my previous blog post http://www.killarneymassagetherapycentre.ie/1/post/2013/10/self-care-for-you.html.
2) Watch The Fillers- We live in a technological age where we can be contacted and are accessible 24/7 this has many advantages but can eat away at your time giving the illusion that we are busier than we actually are. So schedule in email, social media and web time and turn all social media notifications off and if you want to see how much time you can free up try having a web free day or if you really want to challenge yourself go for a week. So when you find yourself with some free time practice some form of self care instead of reaching for the smart phone/tablet/laptop, can you just allow yourself to be and not to constantly do, find the off button from external stimulus for just a few moments each day and reap the rewards.
3) Create A Morning Ritual- How do you set the tone for the rest of your day? Do you jump out of bed after pressing the snooze button one too many times and hit the ground running at 100mph or do you start the day as you mean to go on in a calm, peaceful way? You don't have to spend hours preparing yourself for the day there is very few of us that has that luxury but if you start your day in a whirlwind of activity feeling stressed and rushed chances are you will feel like that for the rest of the day. Ask yourself how you would like to start your day, what would provide you with the tools to be the most productive and also the nicest person to be around in a morning? Personally I like to ease myself into the day by making myself some warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar and then either sit for a meditation practice or do some movement depending on my mood, I then make a big green smoothie full of veggies and fruits and then shower followed by abhyanga and oil pulling and then I am set for the day. I didn't start all of these things at once I brought one thing in that I wanted to incorporate into my morning and did that for however long it takes to become a habit (some say 21 days some say 40 days) and just added to it. So take baby steps to achieve how you want your morning ritual to look.
4) Prioritize- Observe what you do throughout the day and notice any time vampires that may eat up your precious time and energy, simply put them aside for another day or let them go if not needed. Another way of prioritizing is making to-do lists, the things of utmost importance go at the top of the list and things of lesser importance can either be left for another day or forgotten about.
5) Make Sleep A Priority- In order to extend the hours in the day many people stay awake longer in the evening, in the last century we have reduced the amount of time asleep by two whole hours per night. It is recommended for an average adult to sleep 7-9 hours per night although this does vary on individual needs and the best quality of sleep comes before midnight when your circadian rhythm is at its lowest point (10pm - 5am). Coming up in the next blog post I will be exploring sleep in more detail.
6) Cut Out The Junk- When people get busy the fast, processed food rears its ugly head as everyone proclaims they don't have time to cook. This couldn't be further from the truth how long does it take to make a soup or a salad or a stir fry not that long. When you are busy you need more than ever to be eating healthy nutritious food so that you are not depleting yourself with eating sugary, processed gunk which does nothing but taxes the body and doesn't provide us with the nutrients we need to be running at our best and most productive. Plan ahead if you're making soup one day double the recipe up and freeze half and you can do this with so many dinners curries, chilli con carnes, sauces for pasta e.t.c.
7) Book A Massage- If you're busy and you're finding yourself getting stressed book a massage not only is massage relaxing helping us to move out of the stress response but it also targets any areas of your body that may be suffering from driving for long periods, sitting at a desk, over use or repetitive injuries from sports or activities that we may be training for. You may find that when you are stressed all of the niggles and aches and pains in your body rear their head as cortisol and prolactin levels in the body rise which increases the body's sensitivity to pain including muscle aches, headaches and low back pain.
8) Take A Yoga Or Tai-Chi Class- Learn to breathe properly and efficiently, take some me-time in your day, learn to move in a new way and learn relaxation techniques. Yoga and Tai-Chi practices leave you feeling clearer and calmer as you melt away the layers of tension that we tend to accumulate during our day or week so that you are able to leave the class feeling clearer, calmer and more in control of your life so that you can see things from a new perspective and vantage point and are then able to prioritize what's important in your life and what's not so important. Learning to do less also makes us more productive.
Advanced clinical massage therapist and yoga teacher.