While there is a lot of attention (appropriately) paid to stress and stress resilience these days, recovery means more to your brain and your biology than just emotional healing from the tolls of this pandemic. Our brains are wired for one paramount responsibility: survival. When perceived threats and chronic stress are present, this influences our brain wave patterns and signals, which in turn influences our hormones, our microbiome, our energy production, mood, and much more. Under chronic negative stress there is more persistence of certain types of brain activity that, without proper recovery, can leave us feeling depleted and exhausted.
What is “Active Recovery”
One way to address this is to incorporate “active recovery” into your daily routine. Active recovery is different from “passive recovery” which is the typical American default – think TV and a glass of wine. Watching TV does reduce your brain’s higher cortical activity; however, the frequently changing images keep our brain waves in beta-type, which is associated with wakefulness – not to mention blue light from device screens that also signal “daylight” and wakefulness to the brain. Alcohol suppresses some of our higher cortical thinking and erodes our ability to sleep deeply, which is critical for true recovery.
Instead, spending time in active recovery allows your brain to use alpha waves initially – the first stage of restorative processes – then the ultimate recovery brain waves: delta waves. This type of deep recovery not only allows you to restore and replete your energy, but can help with learning, memory, and all aspects of performance. It is also associated with activation of our body’s parasympathetic nervous system – the counterbalance to our sympathetic nervous system better known as the “fight or flight” system which drives many of our stress responses. The parasympathetic system governs what we experience as the relaxation response including lowering of blood pressure, lowering heart rate, a ‘flushing out’ of stress hormones, and facilitation of greater hormonal balance and immune function (to name a few features).
How to Take Daily Action
Are you interested in ways to engage in active recovery? It may be easier than you think and can be customized to anything that feels best and most appropriate for you. If you like stillness, consider box breathing, sitting quietly and observing your senses, spending time in nature, focusing on a mantra, or making sure you get your needed amount of deep sleep. If you prefer movement, consider restorative yoga, tai chi, walking outdoors especially in nature, or doing any activity that puts you in a flow state.
Interested in learning more? Let’s talk about this at your next visit and / or consider working with one of our SENS Health Coaches to dive deeper into your own customized recommendations for relaxation, quality sleep, and active recovery.