By LAURA LEONARD
Doctor of Chiropractic
The biggest hurdle most people have in their quest for a healthy mind and body is time. Accepted stress management techniques like meditation and exercise require time and this often creates more stress instead of less.
In my practice, lack of time is the most common issue people struggle with when it comes to reaching their health goals.
My philosophy with regards to this is coaching patients to “sprinkle” healthy choices throughout the day. Using a stand desk, parking farther away, eating lunch outside, playing with your kids, adding fruit and vegetables to every meal etc. Pick the things that work for you within your current schedule.
For some of us, our stress levels are so high that even “sprinkling” in basic healthy practices doesn’t do enough to break the cycle. Adding quiet meditation to our daily routine is great for getting the nervous system into rest and relaxation but for time crunched people it adds more pressure. How can we encourage our nervous system to be less frazzled in an easier way? Our 10th cranial nerve also known as the vagus nerve is the key.
The vagus nerve is the On/Off switch for our stress response. Sometimes we get stuck in the On mode. Especially if we have no time for self-care. Daily exercise, standing at work, changing your diet and meditation are all very effective at flipping the Off switch but not everyone has the time or the energy to add these to their day. The good news is … there are four ways to flip your switch without changing anything in your schedule.
Get chilly: Take a cold shower, splash cold water on your face, hold a baggie of ice on your face.
Valsalva maneuver: Exhale strongly while pinching your nose. Repeat periodically throughout the day.
Breath: Slow your breathing down for 6 breaths. Exhale longer than you inhale. Try a 4 second inhale and a 6 second exhale ratio.
Intermittent fasting: Use the 8 to 16 ratio of feeding and fasting. Anything over 12 fasting hours will help if 16 hours is too long. The idea here, is that you consume all of your calories in an 8-hour window of time. You can have unsweetened water, tea or coffee the fasting window. The easiest way to do this is to stop eating earlier in the evening and have a healthy mid-morning snack, late breakfast or early lunch to break the fast.
How can you tell if you need a vagus nerve re-set? A regular feeling of overwhelm, constant tightness in the upper back, pain in multiple areas of your body, irritable bowel, acid reflux, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. Try to “sprinkle” these three things into your day for a week. See if you notice a difference. As you start to feel more energized, you will be much more motivated to figure out how to make some time to add more healthy practices.
Dr. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on nutrition, self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal Building on Trinity Drive.