Have you ever felt drained and/or stressed and assumed that hanging out on the couch was the only way to fully recover?
While genuine rest is essential for a balanced nervous system, it’s important to explore a variety of strategies for promoting a harmonious balance between mind and body. To experience the benefits of replenishing your metaphorical cup and recovering well from daily stressors, include some of these tips and see what works best for you!
1) Embrace Regular Exercise
We know that movement is medicine so stay moving by engaging in physical activities that resonate with you. Whether it’s yoga, jogging, or weight training, regular exercise not only enhances physical health but also boosts mood, reduces stress, and contributes to overall well-being. Moving your body in various ways with varying intensities provides numerous benefits for all systems in the body, which are all tied to maintaining our energetic resources. For the cardiovascular system, exercise enhances heart health, improves circulation, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Muscular and skeletal systems benefit from increased strength, flexibility, and bone density. The respiratory system improves with enhanced lung capacity and efficiency. Moving your body promotes mental well-being by releasing endorphins, reducing stress, and improving cognitive function. The brain loves movement! Not only does physical activity promote increased gray matter volume and improved connectivity between different brain regions, but it is also linked to neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize and adapt. Could anything seem more replenishing and recovering than an adaptive brain?! (You can find more about brain benefits in the blog post “The Crucial Role of Challenges for Brain and Body”). Overall, regular exercise contributes to a holistic health approach, refilling your metaphorical cup by fostering physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
2) Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
The journey towards replenishment needs to include deep breathing exercises and mindfulness but you don’t necessarily need to implement these practices while sitting or in complete stillness. I love to practice mindful walking, paying attention to each step and feeling the ground beneath my feet as I observe the movement in my body. Practicing LYT is my favorite way to cultivate breathing and mindfulness during the core-focused creative movement; you know that you are not making a to-do list during one of our LYT Daily classes! I feel that LYT is the magical elixir that both energizes and calms my nervous system, providing the perfect recalibration and recovery. Some other ways to practice mindfulness include breath awareness where you focus on your breath, observing its rhythm and sensations, anchoring your attention to the present moment. You can conduct a body scan where you systematically bring attention to different parts of your body, noticing sensations without judgment. Following a guided meditation that leads you through breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing or box breathing can also hone your focus and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, fostering a sense of tranquility and balance. Ultimately, mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment, cultivating awareness without judgment. It involves focusing on thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the current experience, whether you are sitting or sweating with movement.
Getting good ZZZZZ’s is a cornerstone of recovery, and we should aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night. Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and avoid stimulants before bedtime to optimize your sleep cycle. For the ultimate calming pre-sleep routine, disconnect from electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime which minimizes exposure to stimulating blue light, promoting better sleep and nervous system recovery. And remember that moving your body during the day prepares your body for a restful night of replenishing sleep! Our circadian pacemaker that guides our internal clock of sleep-wake cycles and various physiological processes is optimized with regular physical activity.
Have you ever felt that big AHHHHH and exhale when you spend time in nature? Whether it’s a walk in the park or a hike in the woods, nature has a soothing effect that can positively impact your mental well-being and restore your energy. Nature has a profound impact on resetting the nervous system as natural environments have been linked to lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone; the tranquility of nature helps decrease the production of these stress-related chemicals in the body. Nature promotes involuntary attention, allowing the brain’s directed attention (used for tasks) to rest. This “soft fascination” helps restore cognitive resources. Natural settings often induce a state of relaxation, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, counteracting the effects of chronic stress. The sensory richness of nature encourages mindfulness and being present. This shift away from rumination about the past or worries about the future contributes to mental well-being. Exposure to nature has also been associated with improved mood and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. The beauty and serenity of natural surroundings contribute to positive emotions. Being in natural environments aligns with our evolutionary history, promoting a sense of well-being because of our evolved innate connection with nature. In other words, nature brings us home, and like feeling at home in our body, nature can bring a feeling of safety and security that resets our nervous system. Maximize this benefit by leaving your devices behind; taking a digital detox can help reduce mental fatigue and support your overall well-being.
Touch can be an overlooked and under appreciated tool for therapeutic wellness. At a physiological level, massage and fascial therapy can contribute to replenishing and promoting recovery by increasing blood flow to the targeted muscles and tissues and this enhanced circulation helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the cells, promoting healing and recovery. Massage can also release the perception of tension in muscles, promoting relaxation while additionally triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Both massage and fascial therapy support replenishment and recovery by improving blood circulation, promoting muscle relaxation, releasing endorphins, facilitating lymphatic drainage, reducing stress, and enhancing joint mobility. While receiving bodywork can be incredible therapy for mind and body, you can also benefit from self-massage and fascial mobilization techniques by using props like blocks, bolsters, balls, towels, rollers, and your own hands! Soft tissue work is one of my favorite ways to reinvigorate and refresh my brain-body connection and I often include the use of these props and mobilizations in my classes. In the Soothe Series on the LYT Daily, I also demonstrate Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), where light tapping on specific acupressure points of the body alleviates stress and promote relaxation. The tapping can soothe the nervous system, inviting a relaxation response to recover from stress.
These replenishing tips are my personal potpourri of targeted strategies for creating a supportive environment for recovering in the nervous system. In different ways, they foster a sense of calm empowerment and generate varied pathways to find home.