The Hobart

Stress, Reset

by Annia Baron
Stress, Reset

For the first month after giving birth, women from some Eastern cultures undertake a practice that has been honoured for thousands of years. Zuo Yue Zi, which translates to “sitting the moon”, encourages a new mother to enter a period of confinement for at least 30 days. During this time, she prioritises rest and stillness, eating nourishing food, and disconnects from the schedule and duties of everyday life. The woman does not leave the home, isn’t expected to complete household tasks, and remains close to her immediate family and certain relatives who come to assist. The belief is that after going through a major transition, purposeful rest enables better recovery and leads to optimal functioning.

As a collective, we are literally dying for deep rest. Worldwide, the leading cause of death is still heart disease, and we know that stress has a direct impact on our cardiovascular system. Researchers from Harvard University suggest that stress could be as important of a risk factor to our health and wellbeing as smoking (Tawakol et al 2017). Over time, the negative effects of stress can include poor emotional regulation, frequent colds and infections, sleep issues, relationship challenges, digestive problems, and adrenal fatigue. In fact, adrenal problems are increasing in Australia amongst young people and adults (Chrisp et al 2022). But this isn’t unexpected. We feel the effects of stress every single day – the rising cost of living, inflation, and being time poor – not to mention the aftermath of a pandemic.

But rest assured the antidote to stress is in your hands.

Well, more specifically, in your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This “rest and refresh” mode of our autonomic nervous system is the biological key for turning stressful experiences into psychological adaptability. By choosing small, simple actions that nurture the PNS our body can reset its baseline and reframe stress to become an opportunity for growth rather than a detriment to our wellbeing. How can we do this? Try these daily PNS enhancers:

P = Present moment When we find ourselves ruminating about the past or worrying about the future, we can bring attention to the here and now. Whether it’s a few rounds of taking a breath in for 3 counts and exhaling for 5, or simply closing your eyes and tuning into the sounds around you. Being present isn’t about having “a blank mind” or “no thoughts” it’s about training our mind to notice stress instead of getting caught up in it.

N = Nice to your body Consider a physical ritual that you can do anywhere, anytime. One that represents how you wish to relate to stress. For example, a simple sway from side to side can reflect your choice to ‘dance’ with your stress or sprinting on the spot can show your willingness to ‘run’ side by side with stress, instead of running away from it. See what if feels like to move with stress rather than keeping it stuck inside.

S = Speak well How we speak during times of stress matters. Instead of embodying your stress by stating “I am stressed”, try rephrasing it to “I notice stress”. This creates space between you and the stressful experience, giving you room to choose how to respond to it. In addition, you may like to consider having a mantra or affirmation for when stress creeps in. For example, “Even though I notice stress right now, I accept that this is okay.” Repeating this phrase can provide our mind with a sense of tolerance and less pressure to fix the situation straight away.

Each step can be done individually or in combination.

It may also be useful to undertake a regular stress inventory. Ask yourself:

  • How is stress showing up in my life?
  • How is stress being expressed in my body?
  • If I were to imagine being stressfree, what would that look like? What would it feel like? What would I be choosing to do more of? There are many ways to reset our PNS. Obvious choices include eating wholesome foods, exercising, creating a good sleep routine, reaching out to those we care about, and spending less time on screens and more time in nature. There are also some great scientific tools such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and tapping (EFT) that have gained traction over the years.

Stress doesn’t have to be our enemy and we certainly don’t need to make drastic life changes that involve confining ourselves to our home for 30 days. But just as “sitting the moon” gives some women permission to rest more deeply, you can gift yourself the same honour (no pregnancy required!). In whatever way you chose to practice caring for your PNS, importantly, do what works for you. This way, you’ll be more likely to enjoy it. And when we cultivate joy in our lives, that in and of itself is a stress-reliever. So, on that note, take a deep, slow breath in…and a slow, long breath out.

Your tremendous PNS is here for you.

Annia Baron is a Clinical Psychologist & Mindset Coach. Want to learn more about mindset tools to create a life you desire and deserve? Get in touch on Instagram @anniabaron or visit www.remindyourself.com

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May 2024

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