activate your parasympathetic nervous system
5 ways to get parasympathetic
This is different than just managing stress. Rather, it’s activating the parasympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system, which is called feed and breed or rest and digest.
When you activate your parasympathetic branch, you relax, and blood flow goes towards your digestive and reproductive organs. Therefore, I encourage women trying to conceive, and women with digestive distress, to get parasympathetic as often as possible. Instead of stress hormones flooding your bloodstream, relaxing hormones and neurotransmitters flow through.
The bottom line is that getting parasympathetic is probably the most important part of stress management, and essential with HPA-D recovery. By the way, many people exercise for stress reduction, but it’s not the same as getting parasympathetic.
My favorite type of meditation is mindful focus on breathing, with guidance. Fortunately, you don’t need to read a book or take a class. Instead, simply download an inexpensive or free App. My favorites are Smiling Mind (great for kids!), Calm, and Headspace. Studies often show that meditating 20 minutes twice per day gets the best results. However, I see enormous changes when people meditate only five-ten minutes per day!
Here’s a five minute meditation that combines mindulness with breathing awareness. When you use your diaphragm to breathe in your belly, it creates a deep physiological relaxation response. Listen to this meditation below, and download it here:
Acupuncture is proven to release parasympathetic neurotransmitters and hormones, including opiates and endorphins. Many people get in a deeply relaxed state during acupuncture, a special restorative rest that is unlike no other rest.
Biofeedback is great for meditators who want direct feedback. My favorite method of biofeedback is Heartmath. You plug an ear sensor into a handheld device or your phone, and then get direct feedback on your heart rate variability. Quantum Life is another type. For best results, practice biofeedback for five minutes, three times per day. However, I also see people benefit from five minutes per day.
4. Restorative Feldenkrais, yin yoga, or Qigong.
These practices can be specific for restoration and pain reduction, and they tend to activate the parasympathetic system. These are great for people who have a hard time being still. Doing Feldenkrais, yin yoga, or QiGong is meditation in movement. Feldenkrais is appropriately called “Awareness Through Movement.”
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