When I started a more aggressive treatment for my digestive issues (which you can read a bit about here and here), my doctor handed me a document that outlined the two month approach she was recommending.
The first order of treatment was this: Stress Reduction.
In many ways, I don't consider myself a stressed person and probably don't come across that way to others. But I've had a series of events in my personal life over the last few years that have been HARD, oh so hard. And while I've done my best to integrate them and manage myself in the process, it's been overwhelming. My nervous system has been taxed. At the core of this is the fact that I've had unresolved trauma in my life and while I've done a lot of work on it, there are still many ways I've been stuck in "fight-flight-or-freeze" mode (my mode of choice seems to be "freeze" for what it's worth). Which, in case its not clear, is the polar opposite of "rest-and-digest" mode, which brings me back to my medical treatment.
I can do everything in the world in terms of medicine, supplements, exercise and diet. Those changes alone might be enough to fix what ails me. For now. But they sure aren't going to prevent recurrence and they sure aren't going to prevent the next thing from popping up.
If I want to get better, really better, if I want to take my health to a new place and have the ability to keep it there, tending to my nervous system is the first order of business.
I sat down recently to compile a short list of the ways I've been supporting healing through nervous system mindfulness and wrote three pages in my notebook. Some of them I've been doing for years, some of them I have recently implemented and some I'm still a little hit-or-miss on. I'm sharing my list here in the hopes that it gives you some additional ideas on how to take your healing to a new level, because let's be clear: whatever is ailing you is also being driven by your nervous system.
So if you really want to get better (do you?), "Stress Reduction" (in all its forms) would be wise to be at the top of your prescription.
Note: some of what's on this list might seem unclear as to its relationship to the nervous system. Absolutely ask any questions in the comments and I'll connect the dots as best as I am able. One thing you'll see is that noise is a huge thing for me, so things like keeping the car windows up have to do with that. And, of course, having the windows down might be a total system settler for someone else.
What I Am Doing to Settle My Nervous System
- Psoas release 1-3 times per day
- Work on restoring optimal alignment by doing Restorative Exercise™ and moving a lot
- Go through the Restorative Breathing™ protocol once per day
- Breathe silently through my nose as often as I remember
- Use ear plugs when using the blender
- Choose my form of transportation according to what feels most relaxing (walking, public transportation, driving)
- Go into the woods 1-3 times per week (this is HUGE for me and I will do it everyday when I am out of the city)
- Walk barefoot outside
- Cover my ears when ambulances, police cars or loud trucks and buses go by
- Sleep in the quietest room in the house
- Go to bed between 9-10pm
- Wake up before my son
- Walk. A lot
- Be totally offline 1-2 days per week (another biggie!)
- Frequently change my position
- Change my position when I am uncomfortable
- Go to acupuncture
- Keep my teeth apart
- Allow my body to tremor
- Leave with enough time to get places or "let go" of being on time
- Drive more slowly
- Walk at a moderate pace
- Limit screen time before bed and upon awakening
- Feel my feelings
- Go the bathroom, eat, drink and move when my body asks me to
- Go on a date once per week with my husband
- Avoid caffeine
- Stretch within my physical boundaries
- Have present time with my son
- Keep the windows up in the car so it's quieter
- Turn the radio off, find silence
- Actively address physical dysfunction through movement, doctor visits, body therapies, etc
- Spend time with people I feel good around
- Limit exposure to people, places and things I feel anxious about
- Acknowledge and accept my own failures and limitations
- Limit chair sitting
- Limit time in a car
- Go to therapy and attend therapeutic activities
- Put my phone into airplane mode or turn it off (I am crazy sensitive to the radiation or something of my phone)
- Use a handsfree
- Burn essential oils
- Drop my ribs
- Limit exposure to toxins in food and body care and cleaning products
- Wear clothing that doesn't have opinions about my shape or size (i.e., doesn't compress my body)
- Turn off the wi-fi at night
- Sing and dance
- Get help for problems I can't solve or that feel too overwhelming
- Bolster myself up (physically, but it's a great metaphor, no?)
In looking at my (non-exhaustive) list, I am struck by a few things that make living this way possible:
- I am willing to allow that meeting these needs sometimes means other people - people I love - will feel disappointed, put out, uncomfortable or confused
- I am willing to look weird in public
- I am willing to put my need for inner and outer calm above other, competing desires I have, even if it means that I will feel uncomfortable
- I am willing to let myself fail and not be good at many things
I am also struck by this: it's all very elementary, very basic, nothing really profound here. The only thing that makes it profound is doing it.
So I'm doing it.