Literally everyone I know is tired – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am so very, very tired of the pandemic and all that goes with it – I’m sure you are too! Nothing is simple right now and so much is unknown, and that is draining. So – are we tired are burnt out? Read on to explore the nuances. (Image credit: Rosie Kerr, http://www.unsplash.com)
The aspect of the nervous system that is activated when we are at rest is the dorsal vagal pathway. It is the “rest and digest/ rest and repair” function. A healthy dorsal state is supported by feeling safe. Feeling safe allows us to fall asleep at night while the body does its maintenance and repair functions to keep us healthy.
The dorsal vagal pathway also gets activated when danger is perceived that is so threatening that we can’t run or fight it. This is the freeze response.
This pathway is also activated in burnout. This is when we stay in fight/flight for so long that we can’t keep up with our challenges and our system goes on overload. We lose the energy to get through our days, and we become emotionally spent and fragile. If we don’t take care of ourselves at this point, we can suffer adrenal fatigue and/or depression. The key to prevent this is to intentionally seek and create feelings of safety and honor the need to rest and recover.
Life is meant for living.
My dear readers – I fear many of us are falling into this zone now! It is hard to find safety when we look at what’s happening in the world. Our nervous systems operate below our awareness. We have an internal monitor – ever vigilant, looking for cues of safety or danger. These cues determine the activity of the nervous system and what molecules are secreted that keep our body in a stress response or the rest and repair mode. There is no middle ground really. Chronic stress response over time adds up to mental and/or physical dis-ease. It is crucial right now to seek safety cues, get extra rest, do relaxation practices, and curate your media input, including news, social media, movies and TV shows. I’m a big fan of shows like Ted Lasso that entertain and make you feel good about the world.
Winter Solstice (December 21st) is the peak time of the feminine or inward facing energy of the year. This supports you in getting more rest. Your adrenal glands need rest so they can make more cortisol, the hormone that gives you energy to get through your day but gets used up with fight/flight response. Take advantage of the dark to get more sleep when you can.
Support your ability to truly rest by giving your inner danger monitor a break with the following tips:
- Social connection – I know this is tricky now, but we need to see other smiling faces, share laughter, and make meaningful connection to really feel safe. This is hardwired in our system. Keep a safe group of friends or family and commit to not talking doom and gloom and celebrate each other’s company. Have fun!
- Savor simple pleasures – really savor good meals, a sunset, good music, a nice glass of wine. Savoring for 20-30 seconds is enough to send safety signals to the brain.
- Nature – get out and move regardless of temperature and enjoy fresh air. I love walking at dusk in the winter and seeing the lights coming on in the neighborhood and appreciating the silhouette of the trees. I love the silence of walking in winter – no more leaf blowers!
- Limit your news to necessary check ins.
- Watch uplifting shows. Your system doesn’t know it’s sitting on a couch in the safety of your home when you view violence – it goes into a stress response. Pay attention to how your body feels when you are watching TV – how does the show make you feel?
- Set boundaries to create more time to rest – do less, make less commitments, ask for help, go to bed early for the most restorative sleep.
- Challenge yourself to be idle for 5 minutes/day – do nothing! Just be.
- Process your emotions. Please read Hardwired for Bliss? for more information.
- Meditation and/or prayer. Connect within and to your Source. Focusing on the heart while taking slow breaths is an easy way for me to calm and connect within.
- Seek professional help sooner than later. Call me for a free consult or another trusted provider.
Befriend and nurture yourself and your loved ones. My mother had a saying during times of grief – “life is meant for living.” She would say that the person who passed would want us to enjoy life and with sigh and a heavy heart would get on with it. Let’s honor all those whose lives have ended prematurely due to the pandemic, suicide, and other means by savoring and celebrating life!
I found a beautiful song with the title – Life is Meant for Living. Enjoy:)
“May my life be fully lived, every day as if my last to live, hands for holding, love to give, life is meant for living.”
Image credit: Kelsey Chance, http://www.unsplash.com