Fried nervous systems. That’s the current state for most of us, am I right? We are totally amped up from one after another “fight or flight” trigger. And some of us already had overactive nervous systems to begin with (oh hi, that’d be me, anxiety girl here, reporting for duty).
I’ve had to build a robust skillset this year called “take extra good care of my nervous system.” Often referred to as down-regulation, it’s just a fancy way to say: relax your mind and body to activate your “rest and digest” response. My favorite phrase for this is “high octane chill,” which sounds more fun to me than down-regulation. I’ll get to high octane chill in a moment.
But first, why bother taking care of your nervous system? Because your brain would like a break from being on constant alert and feeling like everything is on fire 24/7. You need to neutralize all that stress, which – left unchecked – leads to high blood pressure, heart problems, depression, anxiety, burnout, and on and on.
Now normally, I’m a high energy, do the intense workout, charge hard kinda gal. Relaxing practices? Pffft. I don’t really like ‘em. (I know I’m not alone, all you type-A go-getters nodding along right now.) But we really do need them, especially for alarm-heavy seasons like we’re in right now.
This year, I’ve chosen to reduce or temporarily stop some normally enjoyable activities because they were too intense for the times and piling on top of my already fired up nervous system.
Stuff like high-intensity interval workouts, running, action movies, and get-stoked-pump-me-up-dance-on-the-countertops kind of music. (Though I’m pleased to report I am officially phasing back in the dance on the countertops music this month in a 30-day dance party play challenge.)
I don’t feel freaked out all the time anymore…so…the relaxing practices are working! I never thought I’d look forward to a nightly bath, but I do. (Anything is possible, friends!) It’s keeping me calm to weather the storm.
Cultivating a repertoire of calming habits has been fairly new for me and it might be for you, too. I had to seek out and learn the way of HIGH OCTANE CHILL, which is chilling in a high-quality way that calms your nervous system and helps you feel your best.
So often, we reach for LOW OCTANE CHILL, aka, numbing. It’s faux chilling out. Excessive television, alcohol, stress eating, late-night screen time, etc. It feels calming, but it goes too far in the wrong direction. We’re all human and succumb to numbing from time to time, but when it becomes habit, it makes us feel sluggish, when what we really want is quality comfort and calm.
Whether you’re a high-energy type who struggles to chill out at all, or a numbing type who struggles to chill in healthy ways (or both), here are ideas for High Octane Chill activities:
Get a massage
Take a hot bath
Chant, hum, or sing
Screen-free evenings and days
Listen to soothing music or nature sounds
Take a REAL break from work to do anything on this list
Drink calming hot tea (chamomile, lavender or passionflower)
Low intensity movement (walking, stretching, yoga nidra, yin yoga, qi gong)
Meditation (for antsy types, try sound bathing, forest bathing or candlelight meditation)
Time outside in nature (bare feet on earth, watch the birds, hug a tree, lay on the grass and watch the clouds float by, hike – anything that puts you in connection with the more-than-human world)
(And yes, I ordered this list from shortest to longest because it’s visually calming. You’re welcome.)
I hope this inspires you to cultivate a new relaxation habit in your life to soothe your nervous system, especially in the evening as part of a wind-down from the day. It’s been a hard year. Give yourself some extra love.
What’s one numbing or overly stimulating activity that you could swap out for some high octane chill instead? What’s your favorite high octane chill activity?
Note: The concept of “high octane chill” comes from Tony Schwartz’ excellent book: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.