Updated: Jan 29
Let's see a show of hands....Who is feeling exhausted and burnt out?
After nearly 2 years of pandemic life, many people I come into contact with are sucked dry, out of gas and exhausted. No matter which way you see this pandemic - whether your are fearful of the latest variant, the government overreach, or the next 'pivot' you'll have to take at work or your business - the constant bombardment of media (news and social media), the energy it takes to nagivate the dissonance in our relationships, and the roller coaster of emotions (fear, anger, grief, hope) that keeps on cycling, is all taking a serious toll on our nervous systems.
I like to think of our nervous systems like a muscle that we exercise. When we lift a load, elevate our heart rates, push and pull, we applying beneficial stress to our bodies to keep us strong and resilient, so we can carry the load and adapt and handle what comes out way. And we need time in, what somatic movement educator, Kaila June of SomaKinese School refers to as, 'constructive rest' to keep the balance. If we did the same exercise all day, every day with high intensity, we all know what happens - we get depletion, 'repetative strain', and injury.
Our nervous systems are no different. Just like rips and tears in our myofascial system, our nervous systems can also get frayed. I strongly believe, as a society, we have been experiencing a collective global trauma: Too much, too fast, and for too long. The continuous lifting, shifting, pushing and bearing a load we never could have imagined and no idea when it will end. And individuals, depending on our unique situation and our nervous system's responses to stress (usually established as children based on the role models we had and our life experiences), we are all 'handling it' in different ways. We might be pushing back (fight), running around or away (flight), working hard to keep the peace (fawn) or distracting or numbing out with alcohol, netflix or scrolling (freeze).
And if you already had a lot of stress or were managing existing trauma (i.e. childhood adverse events, intergenerational trauma, abuse, oppression or accidents), you will be feeling the effects even more. You may be more easily triggered, easily overwhelmed, isolating and grasping to find your coping mechanisms.
(Graphic Author Unknown)
When a stress or threat is overwhelming or goes on to long, if we don't discharge the stress, our nervous systems shut down and we experience a variety of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, inability to digest food, sleep well or be present for your life. It's common to experience a yo-yo of extreme highs (excitement, anxiety or rage) followed by collapsing for days.
It's normal to need some help to re-attune and re-pattern our nervous systems if we get stuck somewhere in the trauma- chronic stress- burnout cycle.
Like having a good trainer who meets us where we are at, we sometimes need some help getting our nervous systems back on track. This may be consistent time in nature (pro tip...she's a master trainer/co-regulator, and she's free) or the help of a professional trauma therapist or somatic practitioner to help you discharge stress safely, and navigate your way back to resilience and adaptability.
Just like pausing between your reps at the gym, constructive rest is essential to nervous system burn out recovery, maintaining and building your resilience.
Whatever degree of this you're experiencing and whatever path of recovery you are on, practice pausing to 'rest'. Different from collapse and numbing out on the couch, constructive rest is like 'moments of nourishment';
Pausing in midst of a job to look around, take in the sunlight, a big breath, yawn and stretch and tune in to yourself.
Walking instead of sprinting through this circumstance.
Setting the load down often (or better yet, sharing it with others).
Taking hours (or days!) off from technology and replacing it with quiet.
Taking a few moments to really savor good things like food, textures, music, and felines. Notice what if feels like in your body. Marinate in pleasure.
Placing a hand on your heart and softening for a few breaths.
Wishing you wellness and ease navigating your journey this week. If your schedule allows, join me for a weekly online somatic movement class (free class Feb 2!) or my Rural Retreat (Feb 5th) to unwind and constructively, rest.
Joy Onyschak has been helping people shift from overwhelm to ease and release stored tension patterns from their bodies for over 13 years. As a somatic coach, she incorporates Numa Breathwork, somatic movement and the art of Holding Space to help her clients find the wholeness they seek. She resides in Winnipeg, Canada with her husband, two teens, and cat, Hobbes. You can find her work at www.joysomatics.ca , and connect with her through Instagram , Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org Book a private session with Joy.