Your Restorative Toolkit
Under normal circumstances it’s important to take care of yourself, but nothing about the previous months has been “normal.” During these extraordinary times you may be looking out for loved ones, protesting racial injustice, or offering outreach to those in high risk categories. In the face of monumental challenges, your own needs might easily fall by the wayside. Keep in mind, neglecting yourself doesn’t serve anyone. Instead, it creates a kind of internal backlash that blocks growth and makes it difficult to be there for others. According to Naturopathic Doctor, kundalini yoga instructor, founder of Seven Senses, Erica Matluck, certain activities stimulate your vagus nerve, which strengthens your parasympathetic nervous system, and combats the stress response. With clarity you're better equipped to flow with life's ever changing current, make wise choices, and help others.
Here are some calming options to have at the ready...
There are many ways you can access the power of your vagus nerve, one is by chanting. According to Matluck, Mantra works through vibration to increase vagal tone. How do you do it? Matluck suggests sitting in a relaxed meditative position, and chanting Sat Nam, meaning: I am truth. And as you focus your awareness on the chant, the vibration will naturally communicate with your vagus nerve.
According to Chinese medicine specialist, Tsao-lin Moy, founder of Integrative Healing Arts, author of “Will I Ever Get Pregnant?,” a powerful way to create calm is by massaging the third eye position (between your brows). According to Moy, this calming point allows for introspection, removes tension, and helps open your mind to new ideas and experiences.
Moy recommends massaging your Headache Point, (depression where the index finger and the thumb bones part), since it’s one of the body’s most powerful calming points with analgesic effects.
Another pressure point to lessen anxiety and relax, that Moy often uses in her work is, Nausea Point (2 inches above the crease of the wrist, on the inner arm). Moy says, “it unbinds the tightness in the chest and calms the mind. And studies show that it has a normalizing effect on stress induced chemicals amygdala norepinephrine.”
Part of why aromatherapy works so well is because your olfactory sense sends messages to the brain that influences your emotional state. Moy likes vetiver, because it’s green scent is ultra soothing; plus, research has found its calming effects resemble valium. Just a couple of drops on your palms is all you need, “rub together and inhale -- it's great before bed to power down for deep sleep,” says Moy. Additionally, Vetiver is being researched as a possible way to help those with ADHD, as it naturally increases focus.
According to Moy, rose is very relaxing, soothes stress and PMS, and the purest rose essential oils are sourced in the mediterranean.
Another scent that Moy says works well to restore, is lavender, known to reduce anxiety. To generate an overall sense of wellbeing, Moy suggests adding a few drops to your bathwater, lotion, or hand sanitizer.
Yoga is known for slowing the breath and helping tone the vagus nerve. Laura Gotlin, Reiki Master, Nutrition Health Coach, and Founder of Laura Gotlin Yoga, shares instructions for two restorative asanas below…
*Note: Before partaking in Yoga, always make sure it is safe for you to practice. If you experience any pain or discomfort, come out of the asana and rest.
Supported Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Kneel on the floor placing a folded towel in a rectangular shape under your knees. If you have discomfort in your ankles or feet, open up the blanket to help support this area. Touch your big toes together and sit back on your heels. If you can’t sit on your heels, then place a cushion or pillow between your thighs and calves. Separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs on a pillow for more support. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up. Release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Lower forehead towards the ground. If your head does not comfortably rest on the ground, place a pillow underneath it or use the same pillow under your torso. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Don't wait until you suffer from burnout to make time to decompress. Integrate renewal into your daily lifestyle. Sometimes all it takes is a catnap, nature stroll or meditation, to transform your mood. Other times, it takes more effort. Like a calming medicine chest, create space in your home, prepared with restorative objects like essential oils, teas, an art journal, Yoga mat, and if a few hours pass and you haven't taken a break, even if you are already feeling balanced and in good spirits, remember to make some space in the day, just for you.