Just an easy one for this month’s blog!
But in all seriousness, really the main reason that people end up in front of me in my Holistic Health & Wellbeing studio is that they have a problem with relaxation. When you don’t relax and you’re in a constant state of stress your brain thinks your life is in danger and your sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) remains in charge. When your parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, be) does not get its shift being boss, certain parts of you will go on strike because they never get a break.
Yep I brought this up last Blog as well (Boost your Self Confidence). I believe that the chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system is a massive health problem in the modern western world. And that was before Covid-19! A global pandemic makes it pretty darn hard for anyone to relax, even if they are normally pretty chill! It’s the lack of control and the great unknown of all aspects of our future lives, nothing able to be planned, nothing to look forward to…
What happens when you don’t relax enough
Well you remain in a state of freeze, fight or flight, almost permanently!
This means that:
- your blood pressure stays up
- your digestive system does not work well
- your heart rate remains elevated
- blood flow to everything other than skeletal muscles is reduced
- your cells hold onto fat
These things are all great when you are in a short lasting ‘emergency response’ period but NOT as an everyday way of living.
More Being, Less Doing
This month I wanted to highlight the least understood of my 5 aspects of Evenstar 5 Star Wellbeing, the one that I call “Being”. The other 4 are – Food, Movement, Sleep and Surroundings – it’s pretty easy for anyone to have a good idea of what I’m talking about when I say that those 4 things are all essential components of living a life of holistic (ie physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) health and wellbeing.
But when it comes to Being, I’m sure many of you wonder what exactly I mean. When I explain it to clients I say that it basically covers everything else that isn’t in the other four – so it’s about how you spend your time (work and play), whether you access your spirituality, the quality of your relationships and connections with others and what other things you do to enhance your mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. But I often like to say it’s about ‘more being, less doing’.
We live in such a go, go, go world that many people struggle with this concept. When you are simply ‘being’, living in the present moment, instead of thinking about what’s coming next and chasing your tail to catch up on what was meant to have come before, then you can relax.
Of course our ancestors lived much simpler lives than we do. They spent their days producing food – hunting, gathering, farming – and their nights with their tribes, telling stories, making music, making love. Waking and sleeping as the sun directed them. Now most of us are so far removed from this lifestyle (although lockdown living does seem somewhat similar, it’s different when it’s not by choice, and when we are constantly living with the knowledge of the thousands of other things we could be doing). Our ancestors lives involved so much less variety than what we’ve become used to these days. And this is progress, humanity has evolved. However, we are literally designed to have a big chunk of hours each day not thinking, not worrying, just enjoying life, enjoying eachother and being grateful.
In episode 10 of the 5 Star Wellbeing podcast I interviewed Psychotherapist, Dawn Vincent, about Anxiety. One of her tips was to diarise for yourself “worry time” each day. So you set aside 15 minutes when you’re allowed to worry and stress and stew, and for the rest of the day you can do your best to get on with normal life. I love this idea.
Why not also put into your calendar some time every week to just ‘be’. Notice, I’m not suggesting that you do it every day! I’m a realist!
What would that time entail? It could literally just be sitting – breathing, using all your senses to enjoy your surroundings, consciously noticing when you start to think about something again and redirecting your mind to just ‘being’ again. I’d highly recommend you do this outside, in the sun, lie on the grass…whatever is possible in the current situation. This is pretty much a mindfulness meditation exercise.
My 92 year old friend always quotes to me the Punch cartoon line, “sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits”. We could all take a lesson from this, and perhaps we’ll get to live that long too!
Now that I’ve told you what not to do ie. don’t do anything for some time each week, let me share some ideas for how else you can relax.
Unsurprisingly my first suggestion is that you book in for a Reiki session!
One of the most consistent benefits of reiki is relaxation. It is rare for someone to not find a session extremely relaxing. During the current lockdown situation I am offering Remote Reiki sessions, where you will find that you experience exactly the same benefits as you would if you came into my studio in person.
Other than relaxation, people experience ongoing reduction in aches and pains, improved management of anxiety and reduced symptoms of stress. There are lots of client reviews on my social channels and website confirming this.
Meditation is something I talk about often, everywhere. Neuroscience can now clearly demonstrate the benefits of meditation for all aspects of life, especially mental and emotional wellbeing. If it’s not something you’ve tried before have a read of my Blog about the top 3 excuses that people use to not meditate and then start slow with the use of an app. Just do it!
You can really use affirmation for anything – it is a practice of telling your brain, and the universe how it is (ie. How you want it to be in the present tense). There is no reason why you can’t use it specifically for relaxation. What is important is that you repeat your chosen affirmation/s regularly, at least 3 times a day.
How about these options:
“I am enough”
“I am calm, relaxed and whole”
“It is safe for me stop doing and just be”
Using your voice
Singing, chanting, humming all activate relaxation responses – have you ever noticed someone humming or whistling when they are stressed or they want to appear relaxed – it’s an inbuilt reflex!
Sometimes you might need more – to scream into a pillow, a strong wind or an open space.
Listening to music is also great for relaxation – time to turn off the news and podcasts and just fill your ears with some of your favourite tunes.
Many types of massage are extremely relaxing (some are not!).
The Aromatherapy Massage that I offer is heaven on a massage table! (unfortunately I can’t offer it at the time of writing due to Covid-19 restrictions but keep it in mind for future times of stress).
Getting your thoughts out and onto paper is a great way to relax. Once thoughts are out of your head they’re no longer buzzing around in there, and you can let them go! Science does support hand writing as being more therapeutic but the most important thing is to do it, so if you want to type, go right ahead!
Sometimes writing things down on paper and burning the paper, or letting it float away on a river or the sea can be very therapeutic. Just remember when you’re journaling, you’re not writing for someone else to read it – so it’s a no rules apply activity!
It can also be helpful to write letters to people when you have something difficult to say. You can write and never give the letter to them, but once again at least it is out of your brain and expressed into the external world. If it’s too difficult to say something to someone that you love, then writing it to them may ease the situation in some circumstances.
Crying releases inflammatory compounds from the body, helping you to relax.
Have you ever noticed how tired you feel after a good cry – your parasympathetic nervous system has been switched on and you are ready for sleep!
If you find it difficult to cry then watch a sad film or read a sad story (The Fault in our Stars, anyone?!)
Essential oils work on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – and they are very powerful because of these deep reaching effects. If your aim is to relax then the aroma needs to be one that you find pleasant.
My top recommendations for oils that activate the parasympathetic response are below. Choose the one that resonates with your most pressing reason for needing to relax:
- Lavender – the oil of Communication & Calm
Physical | Mental action: skin care, analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory
Emotional | Spiritual action: openness, self-expression, honesty, courage
- Patchouli – the oil of physicality
Physical | Mental action: skin care, insect repellent, deodorant
Emotional | Spiritual action: grounding, body connection, balance, physical expression, peace
- Cedarwood – the oil of Community
Physical | Mental action: skin care, insect repellent, calming
Emotional | Spiritual action: connected, belonging, support, community orientation, trust in others
- Vetiver – the oil of Centring & Descent
Physical | Mental action: calming
Emotional | Spiritual action: grounding, connection to self, mindfulness, courage for self discovery
When you buy essential oils through Evenstar Wellbeing you receive information on the best ways to use them.
Humans were designed to live on the Earth. Really live on the earth. Not to live in high rise buildings, with air conditioning , wearing synthetic clothing and shoes with rubber soles and constantly surrounded by electrical equipment. Our ancestors – and tribal communities still today – were constantly in touch with the earth – they sat on it, walked on it without shoes and even slept on it.
Most people have heard of the term earthing being used in relation to electrical equipment. It means that an electrical device is connected to the earth in case of a fault. When a short circuit occurs the current flows to the earth rather than potentially shocking or electrocuting anyone near by.
What is perhaps less commonly known is that all the chemical reactions that occur in the body, that is every physiological process that occurs in keeping us alive, is electrical in nature and occurs due to the exchange of electrons (negative charges) and protons (positive charges) into and out of the cells of the body. When there is a build up of excessive positive atoms, or positive ionization, or of free radicals – atoms that have an un-paired electron – this may lead to many health conditions, including mental health problems like depression, anxiety and fatigue as well as physical problems, such as asthma, allergies, and pain.
The problem is that the modern world exposes us to many additional positive ions that are created by electrical equipment, including lights and pollution, both inside and outside our homes, when we live in cities. So, our bodies produce free radicals as a part of normal metabolic processes and we are also exposed to them from pollution and toxins. If we are not regularly in contact with the ground we are missing a great opportunity to earth ourselves (just as we do our electrical equipment) thereby actually alleviating the constant “short circuiting” that is occurring in our bodies
HOW DOES EARTHING WORK?
When our skin is in contact with the earth the free electrons that are abundantly available from the earth (they give it its negative charge) cancel out the excessive free radicals and positive ions that build up in the body.
When we wear shoes or stand on any substance that does not conduct electricity, including wood, then the balancing negative energy of the earth is not available to us.
As with any electrical current, moisture improves the flow so if you can stand on damp earth, dewy grass or wet sand, or even better in the sea, the flow will be even greater and you will get faster results.
Just get out in it.
Science is also now showing well researched benefits of being in nature. You’ve probably heard of forest bathing. A local park or even your garden will do if you can’t travel far.
Water is especially calming because it works on the vibration of our emotional energy system, balancing this energy out (check out the Creation Energy blog) for more information.
Bringing nature into your home or office can also help – indoor plants, playing nature sounds, placing yourself so you’re looking out a window at trees or the sky.
Looking at works of art has been found to reduce stress responses, and increase relaxation.
If creating your own art is something you enjoy then prioritise more time for this too!
I always like to suggest helpful foods because it seems like an easy solution – we all want that magical ‘pill’ that we can pop in our mouths to make everything better. When it comes to relaxation, the foods I would recommend would really depend on what the underlying cause of your inability to relax is. This is something we explore in my Nourish & Heal the Whole you coaching and training.
However, as a general starting point the foods that I talk about in my Blog, Boost your Self Confidence, will often be involved in stress and anxiety.
When you are struggling to relax, in most cases I would not suggest high impact forms of movement, but again, as with Food, it depends on your particular situation.
Movement forms such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, enable a beautiful connection between body and mind which often allows the excessive mind energy to be released through the body, letting everything relax. You might like to listen to Episode 9 of the 5 Star Wellbeing podcast, an interview with yoga instructor, Jolanda DeJong.
There is a lot more detail on this in my Magic of Movement blog.
There is unfortunately a potentially dangerous negative cycle with the relationship between relaxation and Sleep. The number one strategy here is to prioritise sleep. Simply make sure that you are giving yourself 7+ hours in bed each day.
I have written a lot about Sleep and strategies to help you improve the quality and quantity of your sleep in other Blogs. Again it is a frequent problem that I help people with through Holistic Health & Wellbeing Coaching, and another benefit of Reiki is improvement in Sleep!