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Finding Balance and Cultivating Peace: The Importance of Rest + Relaxation & the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Finding Balance + Cultivating Peace & Tranquility

In our most healthy and balanced states, our autonomic nervous system is ebbing and flowing- oscillating between our sympathetic and parasympathetic states. The autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system which regulates involuntary physiological processes like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and sexual arousal. Within the autonomic nervous system is held the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric nervous systems. For this information bite- I will focus on the first two aspects: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. 

 

The Sympathetic Nervous System

Our sympathetic nervous system directs the body’s rapid and involuntary responses to stressful or potentially dangerous situations, causing a gush of hormones to flood the body. This gush of hormones prompts the body system to be alert and aware by increasing the heart rate and sending extra blood to the external extremities… Things such as muscles which would help us to… for example: run away fast! The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight, flight, and freeze responses. 

 

The Parasympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s rest, digest, and regenerate responses which only occur when the body is in a resting and relaxed state. The parasympathetic nervous system decreases the respiration and heart rate and allows for the body to digest and absorb nutrients optimally. As well, vital organs and central systems are able to repair and regenerate when this state of the nervous system is activated, which is critical for our health, body functioning, and well-being. 


 

Unfortunately, most of us are buzzing on high drive and high stress throughout our waking life. Our sympathetic nervous system is turned way on- which has us primarily in our fight, flight, and freeze modes. 

Other things that trigger our sympathetic nervous system are worry, anxiety, and fear. Our social channels, media, and even our governments are responsible for feeding us toxic, fear based rhetoric, none of which helps us to feel good about life or be peaceful.

We are high functioning when we are working in our sympathetic nervous system; it is when we are operating from a space of alertness and preparedness, which, in all fairness, is necessary a lot of the time. It becomes a problem when we are only operating and responding from the sympathetic nervous system. 

 

When we don’t have practices and ways of bringing ourselves into states of peace, calm, and relaxation, we compromise our health and well-being. It is through activating our parasympathetic nervous system that we tap into our rest, digest, and regenerative states. This is where we repair and heal the mind, body, and soul. 

With so much toxic information in the air, keeping us all on our toes, keeping us all on high alert, stressed and worried to the max… It becomes even more important to have practices that calm us down. When our bodies can’t rest, digest, or regenerate, that is, when the body isn’t able to receive enough parasympathetic nervous system time, our body, mind, and soul begin to deteriorate. Literally, the physical body begins to break down when it is not given the opportunity to rest and repair. And, much the same can be said for the mental, emotional, and spiritual body’s. 

 

At a time when we need our health and immune systems to be strong… it can’t be stressed enough how imperative it is to rest and find ways to decompress and destress. 

As we move into the holidays, which can oftentimes be stressful for many- please make time to rest. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. Make space to breathe, to meditate, to move. Spend time in nature. Have a bath. Cry. Laugh. Feel it all. 

 

Integrating a mindfulness practice into your daily routine will save you- inside and out. 

There is a lot of weird stuff going on in the world right now. It is overwhelming, scary, and unpredictable. The best way we can navigate these times is by grounding ourselves, finding our center, and cultivating strong practices to keep us feeling safe, secure, and prepared. 

Your wellness is priority. If you need to shut off the news and turn out social media for an extended time… Do that (we actually highly recommend this!) Your mental health affects everything. Your thoughts are sacred. Fill your mind with love and positivity. Protect your mind from absorbing constant fear based messages. For real! 

 

Rest is best. Take care of yourself so that you can show up and be your best, inside and out. 

 

Love Elisha 

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