Naturopathic Support During Times of Stress: Lifestyle Interventions to Reduce Stress and Build Resilience.
Following on with our topic of Naturopathic support during times of stress, we will now look at Naturopathic lifestyle interventions.
Naturopathic Lifestyle interventions that reduce and build resilience to stress, focus on stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, and therefore allow your body to rest, digest and rejuvenate!
By stimulating the PNS, we in turn down regulate the Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and therefore restore harmony between the two.
When we have optimal PNS function, we are well rested, nourished and better able to deal with stress. For this reason, I recommend weaving these PNS activities into your day-to-day life, to ensure your nervous system, as well as your mind, body and soul has some time each day to rest and replenish itself.
Interventions to stimulate your PNS:
The best thing about increasing PNS activity, is that it’s easy and enjoyable! I think the hardest part about the following activities is allowing yourself the time to practice them.
We live in a fast-paced world, and between all the demanding commitments in our lives, many of us can feel guilty for taking time to rest and regenerate (aka stimulate our PNS).
However, I promise that you will not only feel better for having a good self-care routine, but you will also have more energy and capacity for all your other life commitments.
So, I invite you to give yourself permission to spend some time each day to slow down, and practice some of these PNS stimulating activities. Because both you and your nervous system deserve it!
Meditation allows your mind to be still, calming the nervous system greatly. Meditation can be difficult for some, so start off with shorter sessions and grow from there. You might like to download a guided meditation app like headspace or insight timer or alternatively seek out a meditation class or group in your area.
Tip: If having your eyes closed is off-putting, try candle gazing; light a candle and sit it close to eye height, focus on the flame and let your meditation start from here.
Our breath can be a great gage of how we are feeling, with shallow breathing often occurring unconsciously during times of stress.
Allowing your body to breathe deeply signals to your mind that you are safe, whilst nourishing all your cells with oxygen!
I find practicing breathing exercises in bed a nice way to incorporate them into my day. Try waking up 10 minutes earlier or going to bed 10 minutes earlier, and use this time to practice a few rounds of box breathing. For me it is a lovely way to ground myself as I start and end the day.
Box Breathing exercise:
- Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.
Engage in Low Intensity Exercise
Most of us know when we are stressed going for a walk around the block can help calm us down and clear our minds.
Some nice low intensity exercises which help calm the nervous system, but can also enhance our connection to our bodies include:
Walking, Yin yoga, Tai chi, Qi Gong, cycling at a casual pace.
A nice time to practice yin yoga is just before bed, I find it helps relax the body and mind, ready for a deep sleep.
Sing, Hum, and Chant!
That’s right, singing, humming and chanting all stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system!
Which makes so much sense, as I think everyone knows the feeling of relief and happiness you get from singing to your favourite song in the car! Or even more uplifting in my opinion is singing in a large group of people!
So don’t be shy and join the choir or attend a kirtan event! Sing in your car or in the shower, and if you totally disagree, and think singing alone, let alone in front of people is crazy! Then maybe start with humming along to the radio.
Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is Japanese practice meaning: ‘to make contact with, and take in the atmosphere of the forest’
Simply it is the act of being in nature and experiencing it through all your senses.
Forest bathing has been shown to increase PNS activity, as well as lower cortisol levels, pulse rate and blood pressure, and reduce feelings of anger, depression and fatigue!
So, take your walks in nature, plan a mountain hike on the weekend, or a picnic in the forest with your friends and family.
Any relaxing self-care activities definitely improve PNS activity! So, this is your reason to take a hot bath, get a massage or take yourself to the spa.
Obviously, most of us can’t afford a massage everyday (I wish), so it’s good to have some low cost/ free self-care activities up your sleeve. Almost all the above activities could be considered ‘self-care’ and everyone’s list will be different, but here are some additional ideas:
- Magnesium baths
- Massage swaps with your friend or partner.
- Face masks.
- Sunbaking (safely)
- Drawing, painting, reading, writing!
- Dry skin brushing
- Watching the sunrise/sunset
- Play a musical instrument!
Hope your feeling inspired to incorporate some of these activities into your day to day!
As always, our Practitioners are always here to support and guide you.
Book in for Naturopathic consultation to receive individualized advice on lifestyle interventions which would be most suited to you.
Or come have a massage, because you deserve it!