Activate your parasympathetic nervous system with these simple techniques
When the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is activated, it slows our heart and breathing rates, lowers blood pressure and promotes digestion. Our body enters a state of relaxation, and this relaxation breeds recovery. The more time we spend in a PSNS state, the healthier we are.
The PSNS is sometimes known as our rest and digest mode. It forms one third of our autonomic nervous system, alongside the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) also know as the fight or flight mode and our enteric system (ENS), sometimes referred to as our second brain.
Below, we discuss 10 ways to restore balance in your body and activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
Stress can seem unavoidable for the most of us. However by limiting or reducing whatever stressors we can control, and changing our reactions to those we can’t, we can learn to manage our response to stress.
Since it’s nearly impossible to remove all external stress, meditation can help to decrease our reactivity to stress we can’t control. Meditation teaches us to manage triggers, reduces our breathing rate, slows our heart, and decreases blood pressure: all signs of PSNS activation. Meditation also helps to reduce lactic acid in our muscles, promoting healing.
Regular massage has been shown to restore balance between our SNS and PSNS. Massage can help us to feel stronger, calmer, and more able to fight infection. It also retrains the body to move more readily into PSNS.
Intentionally slowing your breath lets your body know that everything is okay, as it activates the PSNS. Breathing exercises will help to strengthen your lungs, improve your immune system, and decrease your heart rate.
Practice this breathing exercise to activate your PSNS: Inhale for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4. Repeat up to 10 breaths. Increase to a count of 6 if you want to deepen the practice.
Like meditation, yoga will help to activate your PSNS. It also cultivates your ability to decrease the fight or flight response when you are exposed to a stress trigger.
Attending regular yoga classes or a dedicated self practice will improve your breathing, resilience, strength, flexibility and overall health.
Good nutrition plays a huge part in keeping us generally fit and well. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar will help in the activation of the PSNS. By following a diet with the right balance of food groups, minerals and nutrients, we can support the PSNS.
Intensive exercise stimulates our SNS. However, light cardio exercise can actually decrease SNS activity and activate our PSNS. The key is to balance high intensity work with slower paced activities.
Osteopathy can help to reduce anxiety and its impact on the body. Treatment involves assessing the body’s overactive nervous system and the symptoms associated, such as tight muscles, headaches, digestive issues. Osteopaths consider and treat your body and mind as a connected whole.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is so important for your overall health and wellbeing. It enables your body to rest and recover, to be fit and well the next day as healing takes place in the deeper stages of sleep. Blood flow to the muscles is increased, which brings along oxygen and nutrients that help to repair and regenerate cells.
It is important to talk to someone, whether family, friends or a professional therapist who can help you identify anxiety triggers. Therapists can help to develop coping strategies to prevent long-term anxiety that negatively affects your health.
Remember, small steps create big, positive changes in the longterm. These are challenging times, be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. If you’d like to book an Osteopath appointment with us, please contact us here.