A Letter from Jess: Why is it so hard to relax?

My monthly newsletter is meant to inspire you to reflect, act, and develop a greater sense of body intelligence.

Happy Summer to you all!  

To be honest, I am feeling the push-pull of summer.  Hurry up and take a break! I found this to be especially true when I set out on my valuable vacation time.  I packed the clothes, prepared the food, and planned the activities I thought would keep the kids busy enough that I could find a little RnR.  And yet, when we did arrive at our desired destination, it still took a few days before my nervous system found that slower pace. 

I can laugh about it now, but for me that first day of camping makes me question “why do I camp at all?”. I found myself completely deregulated. I came to relax and I was met with stress: in the days leading up to camping trip, our car broke down on the side of the road and we were desperately waiting to get it back from the mechanics in time before our trip.  When we did arrive at the campground, we ended up having a different campsite then what we expected (and it wasn’t an upgrade). It was also extremely hot. By the time I was setting up camp, I felt agitated and irritable, especially with the kids.  My breath felt short, my energy chaotic, and my problem-solving abilities seemed to have disappeared.What was happening?! 

My nervous system had all the symptoms of a classic “fight or flight” response.  In my case it was a fight response, meaning my nervous system went into high gear, blood was pumped from my organs into my muscles to tackle the situation at hand.  The situation did sort itself out in the end, and it was time to reset, after all, it was what I had set out to do in the first place: spend time in nature, to step out of the patterns of our daily life, unwind, take a breath.  

These were my steps in finding balance:

  • Acknowledge the stress I was feeling
  • Give myself permission to prioritize my own health and emotional needs
  • Find a friend to talk to, and yes, this included an emotional release (a good cry always feels amazing afterwards)
  • Burn off extra steam through exercise, which also filled my body full of those feel-good endorphins (my “go to’s” are either Pilates, yoga, swimming or running)
  • Reset my Vagus nerve by a simple stretching/hand-body technique (see below) 
  • Lastly, find the quiet stillness (this last week for me was filled with soaking up sun on the beach, and having my feet resting in a cold creek)

And yes, we did have an amazing trip! Smiles all around:) 

It is so hard to relax because our nervous system, especially in this day and age, is normally running in overdrive. If we think of a healthy nervous system as a teeter totter, it can easily move through a day with ups and downs and then return to an equilibrium, a balance. Unfortunately, for most of us, the demands of life are more than our bodies were meant to bare, which I certainly experienced in “day one” of camping.  However, thankfully, our bodies are also extremely resilient.  With subtle adjustments, tools and resources, I was able to shift gears into that slower pace, and find that balance point on the teeter totter.    

Your turn  

  • How do you unwind?  
  • How do you reset yourself when your day has gone haywire?
  • What are your resources? Meaning, what do you do to feel good again in your body?
  • When you do carve out that precious time for yourself, are you able to sit still enough to be present in those quiet moments? Do you create distractions from being with yourself?

Conversation starters 

I’m Reading:

  • This is my second time reading this book, it’s that good: “Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve” by Stanley Rosenberg. Written by a Craniosacral Therapist, this book provides an excellent understanding of our Nervous system and more specifically the importance of the Vagus nerve. The Vagus nerve (vagus in Latin means wanderer) is the 10th cranial nerve out of 12.  It is a long wandering nerve supplying innervation to the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract, and other organs of the chest and abdomen.  The reason this nerve is so significant is that it is a key component in helping us regulate, to be in a state of social engagement. If the Vagus nerve is not activated properly, we can end up with symptoms on either end of the teeter totter; feeling low, disconnected, withdrawn. When we feel safe and connected to those close to us, we likely have a well-functioning Vagus nerve.  In his book, Rosenberg also provides many simple self-help techniques that stimulate the Vagus nerve to help bring about that desired balance. I use many of these techniques on myself, my kids and my clients. I am happy to share these techniques with you next time you are in the clinic, or you can access them online here. The reason this book has been so powerful for me is that it has given me a deeper sense of clients’ Vagal tone.  With gentle touch through craniosacral therapy, I am better able to stimulate this significant nerve and help clients reconnect with their own balance. 

I’m Watching/Listening to:

How I can help

If you would like to have a reset in your own system I invite you to try Reflexology.  Find out more about reflexology here

Stay tuned, next month I will be giving away some really great offerings!  Looking forward to connecting with you again soon!

Much love,