It has been a stressful, challenging time. But the pandemic has also brought us all an opportunity to assess who we are and what really matters to us.
Many of us are now recognising that our old ways of being didn’t serve us well. Even before the stress and worry of the pandemic, our modern lives meant that we spent much of our time under pressure and stuck in fight-or-flight mode.
Being constantly stressed leads to our nervous systems becoming exhausted and burnt out. Rest and rejuvenation are forgotten as we expect ourselves to carry on as though nothing is wrong.
I talk regularly about the importance of self-care and making our overall wellness a priority. But when you are so busy, it is often easy to miss the signs that you are approaching burnout until it is too late.
There is something very damaging about a culture where we wait until we are at crisis point until we make changes to our lives. This is why I am so passionate about sharing wellness practices to help you on your journey to physical and mental health. I want to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need to build your own daily wellness rituals.
I’m always thrilled to meet with other people who share my passion for helping others. Nahid de Belgeonne is one of these. Known as the ‘nervous system whisperer’, Nahid is a Somatic movement, breath, and yoga coach with a focus on soothing your nervous system and restoring your brain-to-body connection.
We chatted recently over on the Face Yoga Expert Podcast, sharing tips and advice on how to recognise when your nervous system is exhausted and what you can do to heal it naturally.
You can listen to the full episode here. In this post, I’m summarising some of the themes Nahid and I spoke about and giving you some suggestions for how you can bring your nervous system back into balance.
How Does Modern Life Lead to Burn Out?
We live in the age of information. Our brains are constantly on, processing new data. Even when we believe that we are at rest, perhaps watching Netflix or reading a book, we’re still consuming more information. Our brains are constantly overstimulated and never get a chance to switch off.
At the same time, our bodies are in a state of collapse. Many of us spend most of our time sitting, stuck into ‘head work’ and neglecting our physical bodies. We don’t get the rest or the nutrition we need.
Nahid describes this state as being ‘wired and tired’. And it puts a huge strain on our nervous systems.
Our nervous systems thrive on consistency and routine. We need a chance to rest after action. But this isn’t how our modern lives are organised.
Our society lauds action and sees resting or doing nothing as being lazy. We’re expected to pack our schedules with work and still have an active social life. This is seen as thriving. But in fact, it leads to an exhausted and overloaded nervous system.
Existing in this state of constant action often shows up as physical symptoms. We might experience skin issues, problems sleeping, gut issues, irregular menstrual cycles, or difficulties conceiving.
We need to reclaim the balance between rest and action to create a good foundation, so our bodies and minds can thrive. Prioritising rest isn’t laziness – it is a strategic choice that allows us to take action without risking burnout.
If you look at top athletes, one of the things you’ll notice is that they make plenty of time for rest and rejuvenation. They’ll take days or even whole months off to rest. They also understand the importance of sleep and nutrition for their performance.
The rest of us don’t put the same emphasis on rest. But we need to learn to if we want to heal our nervous systems.
How to Recognise If Your Nervous System is Exhausted
There are many different signs that your nervous system is exhausted and approaching burnout. But Nahid says that the three that show up most commonly in her clients are:
- Sleep issues
- Gut issues
Another one that many people, especially women, experience is anger. Many women bear the brunt of society’s obsession with being busy, trying to balance home life and work. Women may also fall into the role of being the emotional containers for everyone around them and tend to push their own feelings and health to one side.
Being a parent or a nurturer shouldn’t come at the cost of your own health. So, the first step to healing your nervous system is learning that looking after yourself isn’t selfish.
When you are thriving, you become a role model for those around you. People often respond best when you lead by example. By prioritising your own health and wellness, you inspire others to do the same.
If your nervous system is exhausted, here are some suggestions to help you heal and find balance again.
1. Respect Your Natural Rhythms
We no longer live in sync with our natural rhythms. And denying them is causing us to burn. So, we need to radically rethink how we live our lives.
Nahid likens it to our sleep cycles. Throughout the night, we move through cycles of REM and non-REM sleep as our brains alternate between rest and processing the day’s events.
We should take the same approach during the day, following 90 minutes of action with 20 minutes of reset. That could be gardening, tidying up, mediating – anything where you aren’t really using your brain.
We also need to tune into our own rhythms and try to structure our days according to our energy. For example, you may find you can tackle admin tasks more easily first thing and creative tasks better in the afternoon.
For women, understanding our menstrual cycles and how the shifting hormones affect our energy levels and emotions is also an important part of working with our natural rhythms.
2. Feed Your Soul
The disconnect between who we are and what we do can often be a source of stress and tension in our lives. Many of us have a sense of what our soul purpose is. But we may encounter barriers to following our true path. This can lead to anxiety and depression.
We all develop distraction techniques to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed by this disconnect. But many of these involve passive consumption, such as shopping. Being passive in our own lives can itself make us feel anxious.
Instead, try incorporating activities that feed your soul. Something with meaning that gives you a creative outlet or connects you with nature or your community. Examples might be cooking, gardening, or volunteering.
As a Face Yoga and Yoga teacher, movement has been a part of my daily wellness practice for years. Although I love to follow a class or a set routine sometimes the best thing is to allow my body to move intuitively. Tuning into what I need on certain days is hugely beneficial.
Intuitive movement is a big part of what Nahid teaches in her own practice. She encourages people to start by breathing, then move into some Somatic movement, followed by a flow that incorporates some yoga poses and other moves.
The aim is not to worry about what each move looks like but what it feels like. What is the quality of the movement?
This focus allows emotion to come up and gives us a safe container in which to sit with whatever we are feeling, instead of squashing it back down.
Develop Your Own Practice
Each of us has the opportunity to develop our own non-negotiable wellness rituals. You can read more about mine here, but yours may well look different.
To help you on your own journey, I am thrilled to announce that my second book, The Face Yoga Journal, is now available for pre-order. You can find the Amazon link via my shop.
As well as face yoga techniques, the journal includes wellness prompts and motivational quotes. There’s plenty of space to record your own progress, write affirmations, and make gratitude lists. It is undated, so you can start at any time. The journal will be by your side for a year to help you on your wellness journey.