Do you ever find yourself watching the clock round at night?
You’ve had a long day at work, you’re tired and you’ve been counting down to being able to go to bed and sleep. And now you’re finally here you just. can’t. sleep. I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally identified some tried and tested strategies for how to prevent this from becoming deja vu….
First you need to understand the science behind it. What exactly is going on the body and how that impacts how we function. Our Autonomic Nervous System is the main component in charge of maintaining homeostasis; our finely balanced internal environment. Our Autonomic Nervous System is made up of our Parasympathetic & Sympathetic Nervous Systems.
The Sympathetic division mobilises the body in times of extreme such as fear, exercise, or anger. The Parasympathetic is the opposite, it allows us to relax and conserve energy. Between them these two systems counterbalance each other and allow the body to run in harmony, but it has to be given the conditions it requires to be able to do so. If we have a stressful day, watch a scary film before bed, exercise too late in the day or drink too much coffee in the afternoon we can find our Sympathetic Nervous System, also called our Fight or Flight response, will be triggered. This prevents our Parasympathetic Nervous System, our Rest and Digest response, from being activated and we remain wired, in an adrenalised state.
Fear not, all is not lost, we are still in control – there are ways of tricking your body into activating your Rest and Digest Response when you need it!
Yoga, walking, reading and meditation all help but the technique that I’ve found to be the most helpful for its efficiency and effectiveness is breathing. It sounds simple right? But slowing and deepening our breathing works magic on body. You see, how we breathe tells our brain how we are; slow deep breaths ensure the diaphragm (the sheet of muscle below the lungs) is activated which allows us to breathe into our lower lungs. Receptors here are triggered that send signals to the brain that all is well. This lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol which allows the Parasympathetic Nervous System to be activated. This results in our heart rate dropping, stress levels reducing, muscles relaxing as well as our digestive enzymes being released – hence why it’s called our Rest and Digest Response.
There are a number of different breathing techniques, from alternate nostril breathing to meditation, but I prefer box breathing, which is reportedly favoured by the Navy Seals to reduce their stress levels. Simply breathe in for the count of four, hold for four, breathe out for four and hold for four, then continue for a couple of minutes.
Why not give it a go? And get in touch if you’d like support in building a more tailored treatment plan to help you reduce anxiety, manage stress or simply to feel more calm and centred.