To start, an acknowledgement that we have all experienced some form of trauma over the last year. Even if you have been thriving throughout the pandemic, the collective global trauma has been felt by everyone.
And in no way is it over. For some people, especially those sensitive to the energies of division, there is still so much to process and integrate during this time of this expansive shift on the planet.
As we navigate this trauma individually and collectively, it is my belief that restorative rest is of the utmost importance. The following is a guide to various ways we can support ourselves as we move through the unknown, which is always.
The Autonomic nervous system
As we look towards various modalities for self-soothing or self-healing, we must start with the motherboard: the nervous system, and specifically the autonomic nervous system.
Acts of stillness do not imply laziness. This is old paradigm thinking. Acts of stillness are pro-actively supporting your body’s innate ability to heal.
THE THREE STATES OF THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
Beta brain waves, both high and low. This is baseline, normal function, going about business as usual.
Lower beta, theta and delta brain waves. This is the reparation, detoxification and restoration state of the body.
High beta brain waves. This is the fight or flight state. A cascade of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released. All repair systems SHUT OFF.
All three states serve us in different ways. However, when we experience prolonged states of fear, anxiety, anger or depression (or any form of trauma even at low levels) we are spending too much time switching on the sympathetic nervous system. Prolonged periods with the sympathetic nervous system correlate with many long-term health risks. This is mainly becuase stress hormones cause inflammation and impede the workings of our immune system.
In contrast, when we are under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) our bodies can digest food properly, uptake the nutrients into the cells more effectively, regulate blood sugar, regulate blood pressure, build antibodies and allow our bodies to do what they are designed to do so beautifully; detoxify and regenerate on a cellular level.
REST-FORWARD WITH PROACTIVE NAPPING
Rest-forward means putting rest in the bank. This is the opposite of remedying a sleep deficit, such as taking a nap after a bad nights sleep. This is an important distinction. Rest-forward means that you take time each day to encourage your body to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system. All healing happens here. This is a PREVENTION VS CURE approach, which we already know is the better of the two.
Napping is my favourite way to switch on my parasympathetic nervous system and reboot my energy. I try to nap every day if possible. I find that the ’20-minute power nap’ is extremely effective at restoring my afternoon energy levels and brain function. As long as I have my nap before 5pm, it does not interfere with my night’s sleep.
HOW TO NAP
CHOOSE YOUR NAP TIME IN ADVANCE
Decide your desired nap time, and set a timer, including the time to need to fall asleep, 5 minutes usually does it. You do not necessarily have to be tired to take a healing, restorative nap. Do not oversleep beyond your timer and best to never nap longer than 90 minutes. Naps must be completed 5-hours before your bedtime
20-25 minutes: extremely revitalizing to brain wave patterns, refreshing – OPTIMAL DAILY NAPPING
45 minutes: allowing for deeper cellular restoration – BEST FOR MISSED SLEEP
90 minutes: all three stages of sleep are reached – BEST FOR EXHASUTED STATES
SCHEDULE IT – LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE THAT MATTERS
e.g. Lunch 1:00pm | nap 3:00pm | yoga 6:30pm | dinner 8:00pm
DO NOT DISTURB
Devices must be silenced. Ask the people you cohabitate with that you not be disturbed during your nap time.
DON’T FORCE IT
You do not have to fall fast asleep to gain the benefits of a nap. Even just shutting your eyes and relaxing the body is helpful. However, if you are not enjoying the experience, don’t force it. If it’s not happening, just get up and try again tomorrow.
SET THE SPACE
Nap in a dark room or use an eye mask (or a soft folded t-shirt).
QUIET AS POSSIBLE
Use earplugs if there is any disturbing external noise. Try to nap in silence. Even beautiful sounds like bird song or soft music if slightly too loud can slow the rate at which we drop asleep.
GET EXTRA WARM
As we drop asleep, our temperature falls so to prevent this start out extra warm. Cold = contracted and tense whereas warm = expanded, calm and open. I like to use a hot water bottle resting on my chest which I find extremely soothing.
Binaural beats lower brain wave frequencies. Binaural beats really only work with headphones. I prefer over-ear headphones for binaural beats. They can take a little getting used to, keep the volume on the low side.
Pzizz is a great free napping app.
Yoga Nidra leads us into the blissful state somewhere inbetween sleep and consciousness. A state where the body sleeps and the mind remains slightly awake. Yoga nidra is an extremely enjoyable and deeply restorative state to experiment with. There are free recordings available on the yoga nidra network.
VAGUS NERVE STIMULATION
The vagus nerve represents the main component of the parasympathetic nervous system. Learning simple techniques to stimulate or activate this built-in superpower is very simple and with big payoff.
- Gargling for 3-5 minutes every evening. Use freshwater, saltwater or an infusion made from fresh rosemary, oregano or thyme
- Practice bumblebee breath (Bhramari pranayama)
- Practice CAT-COW – inhaling up, exhaling down
- Any form of conscious and slow breathing especially longer exhales than inhales
PRACTICE SLEEP HYGIENE
Sleep hygiene simply means cleaning up your messy sleep habits. There is no quick-fix solution to poor sleep but every little bit counts. Sleep hygiene is about making sleep and bedtime a ritual, and being adamant about sticking to it.
- Best to have at least 3 hours between last meal and sleep
- Take a short, brisk 10-20 minute walk 1-hour after your last meal
- Establish your bedtime and try to stick to it
- Discover your chronotype and use this to determine your optimal bedtime
- Get offline- at least 1-hour before bedtime
- No “news” before bed! Be vigilant about the information you digest between your last meal and bedtime
- If you work on a computer after dark, install F.lux on your laptop. This amazing app works with the sunrise and sunset in your geographical location to prevent you from looking at blue light (known to disrupt sleep) after the sun goes down.
NIGHTY-NIGHT FOOT MASSAGE
Once you are ready for bed, sitting at the side of your bed, rub your feet, slowly and mindfully with warm oil. Go as slow as you can, focus on the pleasure of it.
You could choose to print a reflexology chart and locate the brain points, explore and play around looking for the pineal gland point, lung points and any areas of the body which are troublesome to you.
FOR ELECTROMAGNETIC SENSITIVES
- Turn off your Wi-Fi router overnight
- Turn off the breaker in your bedroom
- Do not sleep with your head within 20 inches of an electrical outlet
I hope this has been helpful and inspiring to you. One tiny nap in the name of MORE REGENERATIVE REST is all that’s needed. Please sign up for my newsletter if you would like to receive helpful and informative short letters every few weeks.