Look after your brain & it will take care of youHeidi Hadley
In this week’s blog we are going to consider our absolutely amazing brain. We will consider how we can truly take care of it, so it can look after us. We will also consider how Somatics can help towards taking care of ourselves from the inside out.
As we have learned in the last two weeks with my previous blogs, we are creatures of habit and most of our activities highlight how much we operate unconsciously. This is an amazing mechanism our brain has created so we can focus on more complicated issues or events. However, sometimes these unconscious habits can actually be causing us more harm than good. It is only when we feel pain, anxiety, overwhelm, fear or exhaustion that we realise we have to change our habits.
Consider how much pressure we are under during the week. Maybe we have a long commute, which involves dropping children off at school. Maybe after work we have to juggle with children’s extra curricular activities, shopping, caring for ageing parents, housework, helping children with home work, making dinner, preparing for the next day and then after that collapsing in a heap on the sofa at 10.30pm, only to repeat many of these actions again the following day. I don’t know about you, but just typing these activities is exhausting and yet many people do this on a daily basis and are to be commended. Obviously there are times in our life when family and work can be a huge juggling act and balance can seem a word that doesn’t fit in to our vocabulary. However today we will look at what is happening within our brain and body. We will consider how we can create realistic changes. We cannot continue operating in this manner because our emotional, mental and physical health will suffer.
Over the years, the human body and brain have been likened to a machine. I will also refer to them in this manner today, however, our amazing mind and body are far superior to any machine.
Living in the fast lane
Stress and the effects it creates on our mind and body can be likened to a Formula One sports car. Think about how the sports car screeches off at the start, breaking suddenly on corners, then screeching again. Within a short time they are in the pit stop having a tyre replaced or attention and repair to the engine and brakes. Let’s consider our mind and body. During our day we may be living in a figurative fast lane. Racing around, only to slow down when we go to the toilet, flick the kettle on or watch the water pour into our cup at the water cooler! The rest of the time, with the help of caffeine, our adrenals are working very hard to help us deal with the high pressure day we have.
Within our nervous system , we have a branch known as the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Within the ANS are two further branches known as the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system slows down the stress response and the sympathetic nervous system speeds up the stress response. It is these two areas that either tells us we are in rest and digest mode or fight or flight. So imagine how these two branches begin to clash and create inefficiency for our entire mind and body when they are predominantly in the sympathetic mode, only occasionally switching to the parasympathetic mode. Within a short amount of time, this habit of living in the fast lane begins to have serious ramifications to our emotional, mental and physical health. We begin to feel worn out, overwhelmed, less resilient plus our ability to repair and maintain homeostasis (a state of balance) is lost.
Yet what is also very interesting and something I notice within my clinical practice, from emails and zoom/skype consultations is that people begin to get addictive to living in the fast lane and the rush they experience from ‘living on their adrenals’ adds to their habit.
Overtime we can become like a Formula One car, a very worn out vehicle, however we decided not to take pit stops and learn when to say no. Instead we literally start running ourselves into the ground.
Take care of yourself first
I often mention to clients that during the safety demonstrations on an aeroplane, we are always encouraged to take care of ourselves first before helping others. This applies to us on a daily basis. How can we care for others when we are running close to empty on our tank? Creating opportunities throughout our day to develop self care techniques is an efficient energy management approach to build resilience and repair. When we live in a cycle of stress, fear and as if we are in imminent danger, we have no insight in to our internal world - how we feel from the inside out. When we lose that insight, we disconnect from the amazing feedback our brain and body are creating for us. This disconnect is often created from a variety of emotional responses or reactions. Various emotions will create a variety of physiological changes to our mind and body.
Different emotions create different reactions in our mind and body. These reactions are created by neurotransmitters, which are chemical signals. These neurotransmitters activate different areas of our brain responsible for mood and also has a huge influence over our ANS. When we understand this, we then realise the importance of creating self care techniques to dial down the stress response.
Let’s consider a few neurotransmitters:
This is released by the adrenal glands and is responsible for increasing blood supply to our muscles to prepare to flee from or fight a stressful situation. It also raises our heart rate and dilates our pupils, once again preparing for imminent danger. Living in this state all the time will begin to create emotional, mental and physical health issues.
This is similar to adrenaline and creates an increased level of alertness, helping to prepare us for action in a survival situation. It is responsible for increasing blood pressure and widening our airways. If we live in this state for too long, we can see how easy it is to “crash and burn.”
This chemical creates the addictive nature. This is what creates cravings for the first coffee of the day to “get started”, the glass of wine to “wind down”, the chocolate bar when we’re stressed. It is great as a motivator but with the pressures of daily life and living on our adrenals, the cravings can cause us to become enslaved to this reward mechanism.
As you may be aware from my blogs over the years, when we practise Somatic movement, we are wanting to wind down our ANS to the parasympathetic mode so it is relaxed enough that it is conducive to learning new information. As a by product of Somatic movement, people find it tremendously relaxing and often find it is a fantastic mindfulness activity. In order to create this calmness from within let us consider neurotransmitters that are instrumental to these changes.
The fancy name for this chemical signal is Gamma Aminobutyric Acid. It helps to regulate muscle tone, the communication between brain cells and will calm us down by reducing the rate at which neurons fire.
This is the main neurotransmitter within the parasympathetic nervous system. It is this neurotransmitter that slows down our heart rate, contracts smooth muscle which is part of our internal organs and systems, it dilates blood vessels and increases bodily secretions and activities.
This neurotransmitter is linked to happiness, wellbeing and contentment. Our levels of serotonin are heavily affected by the amount of sunlight we are exposed to plus how much exercise and somatic movement we do. Serotonin is instrumental in the regulation of mood, sleep and digestion. So if we feel anxious and depressed, we can see why our mood, sleep and gut health all becomes affected.
Creating pit stops throughout your day
As we have considered today and from my blog last week, could you create a life which is less unconscious and packed with unhealthy habits? Instead, could you create a mindful and conscious lifestyle? When you start living consciously and mindfully, you begin to flourish and feel better, which means you have more energy for other.
Could you consider the following to help create self care techniques for you?
- Prepare lunches, put clothing and relevant items out the night before to allow you to begin your day prepared and feeling less ‘flustered.’
- Could you batch cook once a week to prepare for evening meals, allowing you more free time in the evenings?
- When you are in the shower, could you enjoy feeling the warmth on your back? Could you do a few standing somatic movements to loosen your body and create a feeling of energy and fluidity rather than feeling stagnant and stiff?
- Could you savour every sip of your coffee, tea or smoothie instead of gulping it down?
- On your drive into work, could you listen to upbeat music which increases your mood rather than listening to the energy zapping news? The media thrives of negative news reports.
- When you get to work, begin your conversation with upbuilding content. Even if the traffic was as bad as usual, could you switch the conversation to the beautiful sunrise you saw or something else in nature that caught your eye?
- Throughout the day, could you keep your muscles soft and your posture healthy with somatic movement and somatic postural awareness exercises (available within The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online program)?
- When you get home, could you and maybe the children go for a walk around the block and use this time to catch up and debrief before homework and the evening rituals begin?
- Enjoy your prepared meal after your walk which you batch cooked earlier in the week.
- Allow the somatic movement classes and audios within The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program to recalibrate your mind and body.
Consider how often you update the software on your digital devices. How often do you update your brain and body connection? After what we have considered today, surely you would agree that your brain and body are far superior and much more important than material objects which can be easily replaced. So could you start nurturing your brain and body, so they will take care of you?
I would love to teach you these skills and knowledge in the comfort of your own home, at your pace. The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online Program at www.TotalSomatics.com is a really popular choice for people around the world. Many have said that when they adopt the principles taught within the online program and put the practical component with it, they feel complete. When they miss a few days of their somatic movement practise, they notice the difference and very quickly create a daily practise again. Would you like to reduce pain, improve your posture, increase mobility and develop mindfulness? Join me today at www.TotalSomatics.com.
I look forward to teaching you these amazing skills.
Heidi Hadley xx