Rest and recovery are often overlooked in the quest for strength, stamina + weight-loss.
Yet, science has proven how physical fitness is not just about pushing limits.
When athletes harness their parasympathetic nervous system in training, results explode.
Additionally, it’s vital for Highly Sensitive Empaths to understand their body’s nervous system.
Learning how to
deeply relax + value R-E-S-T
has a wealth of positive impacts.
Whether you want to get fit + healthy, or hit another kind of target, working with your nervous system increases your chance of success.
When setting any goal, building in rest + relaxation guarantees sustainable growth.
This moderate, long-term approach also helps HSPs avoid:
The Empath’s Nervous System
Our nerves are our body’s
• communication system
• information exchange +
• instant messenger service.
Everything that happens within our body is due to information being carried to and from our brain by our nerves.
Nerve cells – or neurons – respond to electrical or chemical stimuli, and conduct electricity themselves.
This ‘electric information’ moves around a network of sensory organs, muscles and glands.
It’s a complex system, which has similarities to the ancient Indian system of chakras and nadis.
Nerve impulses direct every aspect of our body and mind. This includes every organ, muscle, joint and every inch of the body’s surface.
This is done via an intricate circuitry of electrical charges, that affect chemical changes at a cellular level.
These neurotransmitters carry sensory information to the brain, and movement commands from the brain to all other parts of the body.
Our brain is always the central point of our nervous system, which consists of two parts:
The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain and spinal cord.
Nerves that lie outside that column are known collectively as the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The PNS gathers all the information from our physical senses: sight, hearing, smell and taste. The organs responsible for those senses are stored in the head only.
Other receptors, like our sense of touch, are found all over the body. You have the most sensory receptors on the lips, hands / fingertips and genitals.
Different sets of neurons carry commands from the brain to the body, usually to do with muscle movement, voluntary actions and impulses.
Separately from the neurons, there are the nerves themselves.
Nerves control involuntary, unconscious functions such as:
This last part is known as the autonomic nervous system, which has two parts:
- Sympathetic (arousing) – Controls our emergency-related responses.
- Parasympathetic (calming) – Controls relaxation + digestion.
The sympathetic nervous system is the most direct link between your emotional brain + your body. It translates your ‘feelings’ instantaneously into physical changes in your body. It especially responds to anger, fear and anxiety.
However, it also responds to intense exercise, which stresses the body to the point of release, after which rest is needed, in order to repair and recover.
Your Nervous System + Exercise
If you are training to get fit, gain stamina or lose weight, you may wonder what the benefit of resting is in relation to your health goals.
When humans are stressed, nerve impulses travel rapidly and release stress hormones to the organs + bloodstream. These have a disruptive and disturbing effect on overall health.
When we’re over-stimulated – from mental or emotional stress, or excessive physical activity – our body cannot take care of:
• elimination of toxins
• intake of nutrition
• cleansing or regulating the body.
The parasympathetic nervous system is inhibited by our (sympathetic) stress response.
Modern Life + the HSP
Unfortunately, modern lifestyles stimulate our sympathetic nervous system 24/7.
Financial concerns, job stress, performance anxiety in career or studies.
Non-stop news and social media exposure engenders a fear of missing out or not being up to date. Mental anxiety results in chronic physical tension.
Over-excitement leads to serious long term health conditions including:
- high blood pressure
- stomach + digestive problems
- back pain.
Furthermore, if you are a highly sensitive person, your nervous system is even more prone to flooding + overwhelm.
How to prevent overwhelm + fatigue
So how can we HSPs wean ourselves off over-stimulation + excessive sensation?
There are two techniques:
The first technique is mild exercise which will use up excess blood sugar and flush hormones out of your bloodstream, deepen your breathing and help digestion.
Walking in nature, or gentle stretching or movement, influences the autoimmune system, therefore making your body more resistant to viruses and other diseases.
The second technique is to imitate and encourage the parasympathetic nervous system by seeking out and blocking time to do things that calm and relax you.
This might be reading, knitting, making something or a hobby where you ‘lose track of time’.
HSP Fitness Goals
If your fitness goals involve too much intense activity, without rest periods, your mind, nerves, muscles and organs will tense you, mentally and physically.
This tension affects all areas of the body + make your targets more difficult to reach.
Without rest, the harder you push yourself + your body, the more you end up disappointed, tired, unmotivated and defeated.
Numbing, compulsions and addictions can be an unconscious attempt to self soothe, i.e. to reduce over-arousal and emotional flooding caused by stress.
Charge Your HSP Energy Battery
When you persuade your body to fully relax, this affects your emotions and mental state, allowing your body to repair and recover.
Recovery time means you have more natural energy at your disposal for your next run, gym session or workout.
Ways to help the recovery process include:
- Slow breathing exercises
- Meditation (see Breath Meditation)
- Massage + self massage
- Inner child play, i.e. doing playful enjoyable things you used to do when you were younger, or where you ‘loose track of time’
- Hot salt baths, steam or saunas
- Sleep + naps
- Take breaks to ‘do something different’, i.e. go somewhere new or try an activity your have never or rarely done before to engage a different part of your brain.
Reach Any Goal Without HSP Burnout or Shutdown
You can support your nervous system while reaching any goal:
- Push back deadlines – Give yourself longer to reach targets + be patient with yourself.
- Be realistic – is your goal attainable in the time-frame you have given yourself?
- Ask yourself: Are you trying to do too much? What do you need to sacrifice to have enough time to dedicate to your goal?
- Ask for help + communicate your goals better, so that people around you can support you.
- Do A Little Every Day – This is a much better strategy to achieve goals, that a short burst of activity then nothing because your body can’t take any more.
- Say No to Unnecessary Obligations – Look any any people pleasing tendencies that have filled up your calendar. What can be postponed or cancelled?
- Understand what goals are a priority for you + why, and be okay about postponing the rest.
- Exile Your Inner Critic – Aim to accept yourself on a daily basis, whether or not you have reached your goal.
Copyright Amy Garner 2022. Copyright Disclaimer + Notice.