I love a thoughtful lyric, and I find this one is especially good. (It’s from a Paul Simon song of the same name, in case you’re curious.) For me, it’s a reminder that, whatever happens, there will always be someone in a better or a worse situation. It applies to so many areas of life, but particularly in the world of health and fitness. Many people compare themselves to others, often unfavourably, and feel rubbish as a result: “That person is so much better at x than I am”.
What if this didn’t happen and this comparative habit wasn’t present anymore? I feel that your health and fitness is your business, and the only comparison to make is with yourself and whether you are feeling better than before. Surely that’s a great reason to exercise, to eat and sleep well and to take more care of yourself.
Last weekend, I spent some time spreading manure on my veg patch so that my vegetables will grow well this year. Then I came across this quote, which seemed quite fitting:
“If I want more roses in my garden, I start planting them. If I want more love in my life, I start spreading it. Surround yourself with what you like by continuously generating it.”
How often do we say this without really understanding what it means? I thought it would be useful to do this week's blog on a bite size intro to the stress response and how we can manage it better.
It all starts with the autonomic nervous system, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and sets off the fight or flight response. This is when lots of physiological symptoms start: a racing heart, sweaty palms, a need to go to the toilet... And these (plus lots of others) signify that the body is ready for action, to run away or to face something. Usually, after whatever has prompted the fight/flight response has gone away, the body can return to normal, and this is where the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in. It calms the body and allows us to return to homeostasis, where the body is working optimally and adrenaline levels have returned to normal. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
However, for anyone who is feeling a bit physically or emotionally depleted, this process can take longer, or indeed it might not happen at all. Therefore, the body is left in a state of high adrenaline and high 'stress'. It can be very debilitating and uncomfortable. So what can you do about it? Well, this blog has never been about giving medical advice, so please see a doctor if you are at all concerned about your health.
Something you can try is practising calming yourself down and leaving little room for stress and anxiety to creep in and linger. You can practise 'emptying your bucket' daily, so you don't carry around unnecessary stress from one day to the next. The simple act of breathing properly deep into your lungs can help get you back to homeostasis. You can try meditation (plenty of calming meditation guides online). Exercise, especially outside, can work wonders. Making sure you have enough sleep is another way.
But if you need a bit of assistance with this, you might benefit from having someone else's help... which is one of the reasons why I love the retreats I run with my friend Julia. We both guide people through the process of calming down, through movement and through being still. Spending a couple of hours relaxing at the beginning of the weekend is rejuvenating, as it reminds your body how good it feels to be at ease. Our next retreat is on the morning of Saturday 21st April in Abingdon. Let me know if you'd like a place. Your body and mind will thank you for it! (More details at www.cleanwellbeing.com.)
Do you feel like moving more? Perhaps you’re at work and your body is yearning for movement. Or maybe you’ve just been sat down for too long. Whatever is the motive, here are a few ways to try incorporating more movement into your everyday life.
1. While sitting in your chair, interlace your hands on your low back and fold forward. Get some blood flow back to your brain and stretch out your shoulders.
2. To release your low back at your desk, sit in your chair and cross your leg over your other thigh and lean forward slightly. Stay here for 10 breaths on each side.
3. At the photocopier, casually come into Tree pose while waiting for your printing to complete.
4. Or, brace your hands on your desk and do some slow, standing Cat-Cow shapes.
5. When walking around your workplace, lunge forward and swing your arms up or out, striking powerful poses (all with a smile on your face!).
What are your favourite stealthy practice moves? I’d love to hear them.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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Clean Well-being blog