The air is dense from all the humidity. I feel summer twilight approaching. The undetectable smoke from the grill is off in the distance but I envision my Dad tending the flames with serious attention worthy of planning his next chess move. My sister and I, with our neighborhood cohorts, are romping in the forest in the suburban landscape of Philadelphia. This was our daily adventure, leading us to the rope swing that crosses the water.
“Don’t look down,” I tell myself. Again. And again. I am petrified of heights. So I hold tightly to the rope with trust while letting go of fear simultaneously. I am airborne. Weightless and free until I hear a familiar clanging in the distance. It’s the sound of my Mom “calling” us home. Not through a phone. Not with a text. With a metal triangle cowbell as big as the kitchen sink.
We sigh. Our scene for the day has abruptly concluded. We start racing home through winding paths, mud caked on our shoes and pollen weaved in our hair. Joy in our smiles. Delight in our hearts.
Ahhh. A glimpse into a sweet childhood memory when technology wasn’t our only source of connection. Maybe you have a similar recollection? Trust me. I love my digital devices. You could even call me a hypocrite right now because I’m currently writing from my beloved computer. And you are reading this from your own cherished device. So yeah, we justify our necessary attachment to our devices but it is just as necessary to disconnect from them. To be in pretend airplane mode even when you aren’t actually in flight.
Is there a limit to what we can tolerate as humans when we are blasted with the demands of modern life? If you think about it, most of the time our devices are the source. We are literally getting on our own nerves and our delicate nervous systems are exhausted. Your nervous system can be injured just like fractures to a bone. It’s delicate. With excess stress accumulating, it may even break down. Just like you can’t keep walking on a broken femur, your nervous system requires time to heal, often longer than a bone. It is fragile, yet strong and resilient. But we are so absorbed with the demands of contemporary life we may not even notice it.
You can nourish your nervous system simply by slowing down. Disconnect from the “noise” in your life: too much heat, super bright light, crowded places, congested highways, a barrage of devices, and in general, over-stimulating environments. This kind of noise translates into accruing stress in our bodies.
The nerves total over 46 miles of an electrical highway of impulses throughout the adult body at an average of 170 mph. The human body has about 95–100 billion neurons or nerve cells and the human brain holds 85 billion of these cells. This is not science fiction, folks. This is the wonder that makes us miraculous human beings. And there are subdivisions within our nervous system controlling it all and specifically, the parasympathetic system runs housekeeping mode, allowing the body to repair, reproduce, rest, relax, digest and eliminate. It is activated with longer exhales and diaphragmatic breathing.
So, what is your current stress level? How do you release stress? Or do you even release stress?
Interesting fact; being trapped in stress overload mode, makes it practically impossible to lose weight because the chemicals released send a message to burn sugar instead of burn fat. And there are a myriad of other negative health issues that result from keeping your sympathetic system in perpetual overdrive.
Activate Your Parasympathetic System Now:
1. Switch into airplane mode for an hour or do a digital detox for the whole day. Reduce “noise” in all forms. Find silence. Free from the internet, TV, or even big crowds. One of my favorite things about surfing is I am off the grid for an hour or two.
2. Rest. Schedule time to do absolutely nothing. Watch the leaves flutter in the trees, lie on the beach, gaze at the clouds, cozy up on your couch. Have nothing on your agenda (and feel no guilt for it).
3. Check in with a nutritionist. Make sure your supplements are on track. Reduce triggers like caffeine and sugar. Eat foods that support a healthy gut, are plant-based, clean, and seasonal.
4. Create a “safe” place that is nurturing. It could be your bathtub, your yoga mat, meditation pillow, hammock, a special corner in your home that you can retreat to for solace and solitude.
5. Prioritize your “To Do” list. Rearrange it and pick the top five must-dos and stick with those. Better yet, delegate tasks to others. And even better, add a massage to that list, a yoga class, or meditation.
6. Write. And then write some more. Let it out on the pages of your journal. Writing is some serious and tender healing therapy.
7. Phone a trusted friend. Share your concerns. Ask and receive support from them or reach out to a medical professional if necessary.
8. Make a kit that holds your favorites, because I love kits. Add things like a crystal or stone, Blue Calcite and Celestite, which are super calming, aromatherapy oils, your journal, a favorite book, and something snuggly like a blanket or soft sweatshirt.
9. Appreciation. At the beginning or end of your day, give gratitude for all the things that are in your favor, for all the things that are going right. You are being taken care of. You are loved.
10. And breathe.
The ocean is calling. Til next time…