Many women struggle to find the time to do things for themselves. They put their own needs behind those of family, friends, work and housework. Do you feel guilty if you sit down to take a break? Always rushing, busy and tired? Don’t have time to exercise or cook a nourishing meal? If this sounds like you, let me help.
Firstly you need to understand the importance of relaxation. Relaxation is vital for your health and well-being, it is not a luxury. So, instead of waiting until you are chronically unwell, start implementing some self-care relaxation strategies now.
At my Menopause Rest Program, I meet many women who don’t have time for self-care, in fact, I designed the program with these busy women in mind.
The fast pace of our lives means our sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) dominates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The Vagus nerve, which connects our brain to the organs of our digestive system, respiratory system, reproductive system and cardiovascular systems alters body functions based on our nervous system state. When you are relaxed and in a parasympathetic state digestion, hormones, sleep, memory and growth are prioritised; when you are stressed and busy and in sympathetic state alertness is prioritised and glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration are elevated.
While these actions are autonomic, you can stimulate your Vagus nerve to promote a parasympathetic state and this will:
- Reduce cortisol levels
- Reduce brain fog and improve cognitive function
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve sleep quality
- Balance hormones
- Improve weight management
- And reduce your risk of chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease
How Do You Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve And Promote A Parasympathetic State?
I work with my clients to implement small, manageable changes that they can build into their busy routine. Try one or two of these techniques daily, think of them as an investment in your health and well-being.
- Cold Water Therapy – Cold water has many proven health benefits, it works by stimulating the Vagus nerve and can reduce anxiety and help with weight management. I recommend you start gently by finishing your warm shower with 20 seconds of refreshing cool water.
- Mindful Eating – slow down when chewing your food and taste your food. Sounds simple but many of us eat quickly while on the run or working. Being mindful when eating promotes a parasympathetic state and good digestion.
- Healthy Bowel Habits – this might sound strange but gut health directly influences your mood and your nervous system. Many women don’t have time to go to the bathroom so they hold on, which contributes to constipation, increases toxins and interferes with your gut microbiome and hormones. When you pass a healthy stool it stimulates your nervous system to release feel-good hormones, affectionately known as poo-phoria.
- Nutrition – eat protein with every meal, especially breakfast. Protein is essential for sustained energy, it balances blood sugar and provides the building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA which our nervous system needs to promote relaxation.
- Buteyko Breathing – try some Buteyko breathing exercises and build them into your daily routine. I get my clients to do specific breathing exercises before bed, when they brush their teeth, before eating or in the car. Using your breath to relax can quickly become a valuable tool to help manage anxiety.
- Step Into Nature – most of us don’t have time for a bush walk or beach swim every day, but you can take a ten-minute walk to the park at lunchtime or walk around the block after dinner. Don’t rush, walk slowly, take your time and observe the nature around you; trees, leaves, flowers, grass, a pond or a fountain.
- Listen To Music – tune out the busy world and tune into your favourite music. Do this while preparing dinner, sitting on the train or driving the kids around.
- Better Quality Sleep – we take sleep for granted but we should relish it. It has so many wonderful health benefits, it is anti-aging, improves cognition and there is no greater form of relaxation. Melatonin, the sleep hormone naturally opposes cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Reduce Stimulates. Coffee, nicotine and alcohol all stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. Herbal tea supports your parasympathetic nervous system. Some of my favourite herbal teas for the nervous system include ginger, lemon grass, liquorice and holy basil.
- Gargling with water, loud singing and humming all activate the vocal cords which in turn stimulate the Vagus nerve.
Of course, you can also do other activities to promote relaxation like massage, spa treatments, exercise and yoga. These are all wonderful therapies and I encourage you to explore them all to find what you enjoy, you deserve it. But also ensure you build some simple relaxation into your daily routine. You will soon feel the benefits.
About The Author
Jean Jarrett is a qualified nutritionist, naturopath and owner of Elemental Health on the North Shore of Sydney. She believes strongly in ‘food as medicine’ and works with her clients to educate them and help them implement dietary changes in ways that best suit their busy lifestyles.
Jean created the Menopause Reset Program for women in their 40, 50 and 60s. The program guides women on a journey to balance their hormones, regain their vitality and reset their metabolism.
The Menopause Reset Program is a 10-week program held in person and online. The program provides education and support for all aspects of perimenopause and menopause including hormones, nutrition, bone health, digestive health, stress management, cognition and memory, weight loss, sleep, mindset and more.
If you are looking for support for your menopause journey the next course starts in May 2023 or book a consultation at Elemental Health.