Nourish your Nervous System | Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A Restorative Reset

Nourish your Nervous system
Nourish your nervous system (IC: Jes Kimak)

The holiday season is quickly approaching; the time of year that is celebrated for being joyful but is frequently stressful. As we approach the darkness of the winter solstice we often feel a natural inclination to rest and take time out from our busy lives. However, this season tends to be emotionally demanding. It can be hard to maintain a sense of inner peace when we feel over-extended or resentful. 

Navigating the holidays within the pandemic can also be confusing. You might be asking, “Is it safe to travel?” “Do I wear a mask when visiting with relatives or friends?” You might wish you could travel home to be closer to family but feel stuck far away. Or, if you are travelling to be with family other challenges can arise. You might face critical parents or distant children. Maybe you take the role of caregiver for family members leaving little time for yourself. Or you might feel pressure to create perfect memories for your children to maintain the “magic” of the season.

In truth, there is no single right way to approach these challenges. We are all trying to find our way in a unsettled and confusing world. Since it is hard to find our answers outside of ourself, it is even more important to turn your attention inward. This will allow you to nourish your nervous system and can increases your chances of moving through this season with equanimity and ease.

Nourish your Nervous System

Nourish your nervous system Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Arriving (IC Jes Kimak)

Our yoga practice can become essential any time of year to help us maintain balance and stay realistic about what we can actually accomplish. The softer side of yoga invites you into restorative shapes that allow you to rest into stillness to support your parasympathetic nervous system.

A sense of safety is always rooted in choice, and resting in stillness can never be forced. Just as you may need to build up tolerance to engage in strength training or endurance exercises, you may also need to build up a tolerance for restful states. As you work to build this tolerance, you might find that when your body becomes still that your mind speeds up. Or you might feel restless or notice the urge to fidget. Or you might feel collapsed or immobilized. 

Remember that you can move your body freely as needed and that you can turn toward cues that help you recognize that you are safe now. Once you recognize that you are safe, you can practice learning to let go of your vigilance and soften into stillness.

Ruled by Rhythm

Nourish your nervous system Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Ruled by Rhythm (IC: Jes Kimak)

Our bodies are ruled by rhythm. The rhythmic pulse of your heartbeat and the cyclical nature of your circadian rhythm are two clear examples. Your circadian rhythm is a twenty-four-hour cycle that is not only responsible for your sleep patterns but also helps regulate your hormones, body temperature, hunger cycles, and digestion.

When your circadian rhythm gets offset by jet lag—or by any other type of significant disruption to your schedule—it can impact both your sleep and your digestion. Our bodies appreciate when we go to sleep, wake up, and eat with relative predictability. When we engage in restorative practices and meditation with regularity, our bodies become accustomed to these rhythms as well. 

Yoga Nidra—Yogic Sleep

Settling In (IC: Arielle Schwartz)

Yoga nidra involves resting in corpse pose while engaging in a series of guided body-awareness scans. Yoga nidra typically lasts between thirty and forty minutes, but if have a trauma history, it can be beneficial to begin with a shorter, ten-minute practice of stillness while you focus your awareness on your breath and bodily sensations. 

As needed, you can also adapt your practice to reduce the likelihood of triggering PTSD symptoms by choosing to sit up or keep your eyes open. You can choose to move your body or end the practice at any time. If you would like to try this for yourself, this next practice offers you an opportunity to explore a trauma-sensitive version of yoga nidra for yourself:

Additional Resources:

About Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr. Arielle Schwartz Complex PTSD

Arielle Schwartz, PhD, is a psychologist, internationally sought-out teacher, yoga instructor, and leading voice in the healing of PTSD and complex trauma. She is the author of five books, including The Complex PTSD WorkbookEMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology, and The Post Traumatic Growth Guidebook.

Dr. Schwartz is an accomplished teacher who guides therapists in the application of EMDR, somatic psychology, parts work therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of trauma and complex PTSD. She guides you through a personal journey of healing in her Sounds True audio program, Trauma Recovery.

She has a depth of understanding, passion, kindness, compassion, joy, and a succinct way of speaking about very complex topics. She is the founder of the Center for Resilience Informed Therapy in Boulder, Colorado where she maintains a private practice providing psychotherapy, supervision, and consultation. Dr. Schwartz believes that that the journey of trauma recovery is an awakening of the spiritual heart.

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