You’re tired in the morning and wide awake when you should be drifting off to sleep. Your first cup of coffee or tea gets you going and you look forward to a wind-down glass of wine in the evening. You’re up one minute and down the next, feeling hormonal and slightly out of control. Sound familiar? The chances are you’re racing through life with too much time in the ‘red zone’, your foot is flat down on the accelerator and your body needs constant refuelling. So how do you calm down and still get everything done? Allow yourself a little time in the relaxing ‘green zone’ and your body will thank you for it, helping you to function more effectively. Here’s how.
The red zone
Let’s start with the technical side of things. Our automatic nervous system functions to control our unconscious actions such as digestion, blood pressure and heart rate. It’s divided into the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is what I call the red zone, when your body triggers a stress response and releases two hormones – adrenaline (the accelerator) and cortisol (the fuel).
Also known as the fight-or-flight system, the adrenaline increases your heart rate and prepares your muscles to run or fight, dilating pupils for sharper vision and increasing blood pressure. Your heart races, your hands sweat and your knees either lock up or feel like jelly. Subsequently your non-essential systems such as digestion and immunity slow down. Cortisol stimulates the liver to release glucose providing the energy to help maintain blood sugar levels and it can be triggered if you eat too many refined foods. This is all very well in an emergency, but continuing this pattern will have an impact on your body, as it uses the energy for defence rather than for nourishment.
Too much time in the red zone and your body will eventually burn out. Take control and spend some time in the green zone.
The green zone
The parasympathetic nervous system is at the other end of the scale. Put on the brakes and you will enter the ‘green zone’ where you rest, digest and repair. Taking just a little time out each day will allow your body to recover from the madness of the red zone and enable your digestive and immune systems to function well.
Kath’s tips on taking yourself into the green zone
- Why not make Friday nights your Epsom Bath Salts night to wind down after a busy week. It’s high in magnesium which is the relaxing and detoxing mineral. You can buy it from most good health stores.
- Take moderate exercise. Walking is particularly relaxing so put your phone away and look at what’s around you to clear your head.
- Take some time each day to sit and eat, rather than grabbing each meal on the run. Your digestive system will work so much better this way.