The Power of Relaxation

Is Your Nervous System Noisy?

Most of us may think of noise as something coming from the outside of our bodies such as traffic, horns hooting, brakes squealing, sirens whining.  Others may consider people’s voices, children squealing, dogs barking or TV sounds constantly in the background as noisy.  Thank heavens most of us do not have to deal with the sound and threat of guns firing off in our neighborhoods.

We are all affected by our environment and the sounds therein.  And we tend to respond differently to noise pollution depending on our overall make-up, age and experience.  Rock music can feel totally discordant and annoying to one person, yet exciting and expressive to another.

My nephew, who has lived in London for many years, finds visiting his family home in the English countryside as way too quiet at nighttime, almost to the point of being disturbing.   His nervous system is so used to the background hum of constant traffic that he can find it difficult to sleep in the silent and peaceful surroundings of village life.

What I’m referring to today, is the noise we feel inside of our bodies, something we may be completely unaware of.

The noisiest nervous system I have ever heard came from a client I saw many years ago in my California practice.  Jeannette was an attractive, Hispanic American, professional businesswoman, well-spoken, self-contained, and according to her, just needing to relax from a stressful period in her life.

The massage session was quite uneventful in as much as she had physical tension in all the usual places for someone working in an office setting. She had tight shoulders and neck, and some lower back tension from too much sitting, but overall she felt like she had a strong body and enough physical resilience when dealing with her stress.

It was when I stopped my hands-moving-activity and listened to her energy that I got a shock.  I could hear her screaming, deep inside of herself. I had never heard such a silent, yet loud scream before.  It also felt a bit like jumping beans bouncing all over the place – a constant restlessness and agitation.  I really felt for Jeannette as her more controlled exterior was in complete contrast to her chaotic interior.  I didn’t know what to make of the feelings I was tuning in to.  It all seemed to be a bit extreme to me.  However, I had come this far in my work experience, not to judge what I felt, and certainly not to presume to know exactly what this was all about.

After the treatment, and before she left the office, I shared with her my impressions and my concern.  She raised her eyebrows in interest, and some surprise, as I asked if she could relate to anything I was saying. Her face seemed to suddenly change color – a little ashen – features drawn into stress lines etched as evidence on her young skin.

“Oh I can relate very closely to what you are saying”, she responded somberly.  “I broke up with my boyfriend recently. We were living together in my house. I made him leave and it was messy. The thing is, he keeps threatening to burn my house down, with me in it, one night.  I’m not sleeping well.  I’m afraid.”

No kidding.  And there it was.  No wonder I could hear her fear.

It is virtually impossible to relax when we are in fear.  Increased Adrenalin flow has alerted the nervous system and body to be on standby.  The mind tends to dart and flutter in hyper-vigilance. The “What if…..” syndrome goes into over-drive.

In working through the stress that lock-downs mask-wearing and physical distancing have produced, I have noticed that our nervous systems are significantly elevated or rather depressed from over stimulation, which can also result in a sense of numbness.

So, this is where our amazing ability to adapt to our current environment comes into play.  I always maintain that when we are feeling out of control with some aspects of our life, we can concentrate on what we do have control over. In my experience that would be our breath and our attitude.

Unless you have some medical reason why you cannot breathe fully and freely, your breath is the most powerful self-healing internal medicine that you own.  It’s also completely free. It’s available 24/7 and responds well to daily practice.  And it’s literally, right under your nose.  Practice deep, slow, quiet and regular breaths whenever you can remember.  This will help calm and reassure your nervous system.

Unless you have some medical reason why you cannot choose what thoughts you want to think, your mind is also the most powerful self-healing internal medicine that you own.  In fact, you are the CEO of your mental operations. You get to be discerning as to who you have been most influenced by in the past and who you are listening to in the present.

This may sound corny or trite to some, but the opposite of fear could be love.   What if you were to spend 2 minutes (or more) focusing entirely on everything and everyone that you love and appreciate?  Our bodies cannot always distinguish between fact and fiction.  It depends on what thoughts we are feeding ourselves.  I have noticed that people who pray or meditate regularly tend to experience more inner stillness overall.

When you practice breathing with awareness, and when your mind is focused on what is good, right and loving in your life your nervous system gets to rest and relax.  Whether you accomplish these actions and reap their benefits, or only get a brief glimpse of relaxation, it is an important step in the right direction.  It can be a way of modulating your internal noise before it becomes intrusive in your outer life.

Lastly, at least once a day, if physically possible, be outside in nature.  Feel your connection with the elements.  Gardeners and children know this instinctively.  Literally and figuratively grounding ourselves regularly is like feeding our nervous system from the soles of our feet to the top of our head.  There is much to be enjoyed here!