I’m a very active person, and I demand a lot of myself. I take on a lot of work, take care of my family, study new things all the time and exercise. Can everything be done? The way I see it, yes, it can. But as long as you don’t end up hurting yourself in the process.
I used to think that being organized and having a well prioritized to do list was enough to get everything done. But then it took the toll on my health. I got some nervous tics, anxiety and cold hands. People used to tell me that I had to slow down. But what does this really mean?
When you ask a lot of yourself your sympathetic nervous system starts “running” faster. This is the system that activates the fight-or-flight response. However, it needs a counterbalance. And that’s the parasympathetic nervous system, which restores the body and provides calm. We tend to activate the sympathetic nervous system with our fast-paced life choices (I know I do), but don’t really take care of the opposite side of the coin as often.
Here’s a common myth: self-care takes time. Reality: not as much time as you think.
I recently found a super fast and helpful technique called 4-7-8 Breath developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Conscious breathing is very helpful to improve your mental and physical state. This exercise, also known as Relaxing Breath, is a great ally to combat stress, anxiety and tension. As the name suggests, you feel relaxed almost immediately because breathwork has a direct connection with your nervous system.
Here’s how to do it:
- Exhale until you have no air in you.
- Place the tip of your tongue against the line between your upper front teeth and your palate.
- Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Make sure to let all the air out. You’ll notice a whooshing sound.
- Repeat from step 2 to step 4 three more times for a total of four cycles.
- Extra tip: if you close your eyes you’ll feel a deeper relaxation.
After doing the breathing exercise take a few seconds to come back into your routine and enjoy the state of calm you’ll be in. I like to take a couple of extra deep breaths and that put me in a better mental state and, eventually, in a better physical state.
What Dr. Weil recommends doing this twice a day. It’s a great tool to calm yourself if you’re about to react to a difficult situation, to fall asleep faster or to control a rush of anxiety. It’s also super helpful to fight food cravings. It’ll put you in the right mental place to analyze why you are craving a certain food and pause before deciding to eat it.