I’m not trying to invent some new way to introduce rest to your life. You’ve probably heard most, if not all of this information in the past, but a little push in the right direction never hurt anyone.
Hello everyone, Dr. Brady Bird here at Total Health Chiropractic.
Throughout our video series, we touch on stress and how the human body responds to it. We talk a lot about the fight or flight response that your body enters when you’re confronted with stress, whether that stress is physical, chemical, or psychological. Fight or flight is a life-saving state that is absolutely necessary for our survival, but we’re absolutely not meant to stay in that state for long – in fact, we’re only meant to stay in fight or flight until we’re out of immediate danger, and staying in this state too long can be super detrimental to our health.
Just think about what you’re body’s doing during fight or flight – stress hormones cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure, decreased digestion, hyper-awareness of your surroundings to the point of not being able to focus, increased blood clotting, and terrible memory creation and retrieval. That doesn’t sound like a great way to live your life, but if you stay in a constant state of stress, this is your life.
As I said, we’ve gone over the stress response, fight or flight, and sympathetic nervous system a number of times in our Living the Total Health Dream video series, so this isn’t our topic today. I want to talk about what your body is doing when you’re NOT in fight or flight, and how we can achieve this. The alternative to fight or flight, which is controlled by your parasympathetic nervous system, is sometimes called Rest and Digest, because that’s basically what you’re doing when you’re not under significant stress. It’s a state of conservation and restoration. Your heart rate and blood pressure drops, and your digestive system is stimulated to process food and eliminate waste. When I say it like that, Rest and Digest doesn’t necessarily sound as glamorous as fight or flight, but believe me, it’s where you want to be. To piggyback on our favorite analogy of fight or flight giving you the best chance to fight off a tiger, you HAVE to be able to transition to Rest and Digest as soon as possible or else there’s no way your body will be prepared to fight the next tiger.
But how do we get the most out of our Rest and Digest state?
I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel on getting better rest, I really just want to pass along a few tips on getting the most restoration and conservation for your buck.
First, and this is certainly easier said than done, getting organized to manage your daily tasks is often overlooked. Even if you’re not a list person, which I am not, it can get pretty overwhelming to have all of your tasks and obligations running through your head with no sense of priority and no game-plan for getting through everything you need to do.
Next, regular physical activity is SO important for transitioning out of a stressful state. Regular exercise promotes better, quality rest and sleep. Everyone’s different, so you need to figure out if exercise affects you better if you do it in the morning or evening. Some people feel super energized all day if they exercise first thing in the morning while others hit a wall during their day. Figure out your needs and try to create an exercise routine. If you can get your physical activity while being outside, that’s even better. I want you to try something. Once you decide if morning or evening exercise is better for you, take a whole week where you are outside doing some sort of physical activity when the sun is either rising or setting. It is one of the absolute best ways to pull yourself out of the stress response. Do this for a week and you’ll never want to stop. If your life allows you to be outside for both sunrise and sunset, take advantage of it, but I know that’s a pretty big ask.
Now how could we talk about exercise and not talk about diet?
Being mindful of what you put in your body absolutely plays a part in how well you’re able to rest and recharge. Managing the amount of food you eat at one time to limit discomfort may seem like a no brainer, but we all get ourselves in that situation where we just stuff ourselves and feel miserable now and then, or is that just me? This is especially important when you get closer to bedtime. The same can be said for your caffeine intake. Limiting caffeine especially during the later hours of the day will allow you to enter a truly restful state when you go to bed.
Speaking of going to bed, sticking to a sleep schedule of at least 7 hours, 8 if possible, is terribly important. This sleep schedule’s benefits can be enhanced if you create as peaceful of a sleep environment as possible. You can accomplish this by ensuring that your bedroom is dark and free of light-emitting screens. Putting yourself in a restful, calm state before going to bed helps too. Try reading, taking a bath or shower, or meditating immediately before going to bed. If you’ve never tried meditation before and don’t know where to start, don’t worry, there’s help out there. There are a number of meditation and mindfulness apps out there, believe it or not. I really like the app named Headspace. It’s guided meditation that starts you out with as little as 3 minutes per day. I really do recommend it.
As I said, I’m certainly not trying to invent some new way to introduce rest to your life. You’ve probably heard most, if not all of this information in the past, but a little push in the right direction never hurt anyone. I hope you can implement something from this video into your day to help you better restore and conserve your energy and get ready for that next tiger.
Thanks and be well.?