Rest and digest…

We’re only 11 days into the new year, but I’d hazard a guess many people have already felt a sense of stress at some point.

You know, when you feel under pressure, or not fully in control.

I came across a great description of this feeling:

It’s kind of like being on the starting line of a race and you’re all pumped up ready for the gun to go off, but the gun never goes off and that process continues.

It’s known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is the body’s natural defence system literally asking – do I stand and fight, or flee for my life?

It’s triggered by the sympathetic nervous system – which I’ve always thought is oddly named, because it doesn’t feel very sympathetic!

But essentially the primary function of the sympathetic nervous system is to keep your body safe from danger.

Your brain sends messages to the rest of your body which causes physical changes – increased heart rate, blood pressure and your breathing rate.

There’s a sudden release of hormones which in turn results in the release of adrenaline into your body.

Not great eh?

So what to do?

The opposite of this reaction is often referred to as the ‘rest and digest’ response, or the relaxation response.

Four coloured squares with the words Rest, Relax, Be written on them and a smiley face
Rest and digest. Photo by Ann Lund.

This is triggered by the parasympathetic nervous system, and the best way to stimulate this response is by taking a few deep breaths.

When I guide meditation, we usually take a few moments to settle and find a comfortable position, then I encourage participants to take a few deep breaths to enable them to start to relax and hopefully trigger this response.

I find the best way to do this is to take a deep breath in through your nose, then gently and slowly sigh the air out from your mouth.

This gives your whole body a sense of release, letting go.

So this January, let go of the expectation that you always need to be moving forward at lightning speed.

Instead, give yourself permission to stop.

Take some deep breaths, and spend more of your time exploring the relaxation response.

Ann 🙏

P.S. If you find you need help with this – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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