On Wednesday, I discussed pain messaging and how chronic pain signals can be a result of a overly sensitive nervous system rather than tissue damage.

Here are my top 3 recommendations on how to quiet an overcharged nervous system:

1) POWER NAP – In our super-fast, over stimulated world, our nervous systems are unable to process the amount of data we are constantly bombarded with. Taking an afternoon nap is like pressing the reset button in your brain. In the time of information overload, we need to be able to shut off and restore ourselves on a daily basis. After short 20-minute nap you’ll experience greater calmness, clarity of thought, enhanced sense of well being and possibly a decrease in your pain sensation.

2) SLEEP WELL – A good night’s sleep is paramount for restoring your nervous system and creating an environment of healing. However, people with chronic pain conditions often struggle to sleep well and rest properly throughout the night. Napping and practicing deep abdominal breathing throughout the day are very important, but you also need to take care of your sleeping environment.
Your bedroom should be clear of any digital distractions (phone, TV, laptop) and truly become an oasis of rest. Sleep in a well-ventilated, dark and quiet room. Make sleep a routine by having a regular sleeping time. Regardless of the day, go to bed and try to wake up at the same time each day.
In addition, your thoughts about sleep are also very important. Negative thoughts, dread about going to bed, or fear around inability to fall asleep will very likely create a self-fulfilling prophecy and further lead to insomnia. Trust that you will fall asleep easy and rest well all throughout the night.

3) 5 MINUTE BREATHING SOLUTION – Deep abdominal breathing is one of the fastest ways to turn off the “stress response” and begin to trigger the relaxation response. For best results, get into a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe through your nose. The 5 Minute Breathing Solution  is one of the best tools to invest more resilience into your nervous system. Check out the video below for the 5 Minute Breathing Solution.

Soothing your nervous system and restoring your brain’s messages to your aching body is a process. There is no “quickfix,” or a single pill that will instantly get rid of pain without side effects. Therefore, learning to understand the relationship between pain and your nervous system, learning what therapeutic protocols are most effective and practicing self-care approaches will help move you towards managing, and eventually resolving, chronic pain.

 

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Dagmar Khan

Dagmar Khan is the 1st Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher in Europe and leading mobility expert in whole Ireland; with over 15 years of experience in Yoga, Pilates, Stress Management and Fitness. She is sought-after core-expert who specializes in helping people overcome physical roadblocks and rehabilitate from serious injuries, such as spinal problems, hip replacements, osteoporosis and arthritis. Dagmar has worked with 1000’s of people and has created successful Yoga Tune Up® programs for athletic clubs, colleges, and university lecturers in sport and medical doctors. Dagmar is the creator of INJURY FREE RUNNING program for the Solas Run For Life, a contributing fitness expert to Beat 102 103 & Waterford Today, and her work has been featured on Dublin City FM, WLR FM, Munster Express and Waterford News & Star. For more information visit www.dagmarkhan.com

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Saori

Thank you for this article! I have a very different schedule everyday & some days I have to get up before 5am to get to work, and some days not until 8am. How can I make my sleeping patterns regular? I know consistency is key, but I prefer not having to wake up at 5am on the days I don’t need to!

Jasmine

Do you have any advice for shift workers who cannot follow a regular sleep pattern? I work in a stressful job that requires rapidly changing hours and feel like my nervous system is almost permanently in fight or flight mode.

Caitlin Casella

The power nap is helpful to me when I’m feeling off (grumpy, agitated, achy, sore, etc). I call it a “couch savasana.” I lie on my couch in a savasana position and drift off to sleep for 20 minutes. So refreshing!

Cecile Bott

Hello Dagmar,
Naps are great if you can incorporate them into your daily routine. Nothing could be better! Although, the odd nap is capable of disrupting a well established sleep pattern, not unlike jet lag. Sometimes is might be better to take the opportunity to meditate, as a state of relaxed awareness can be equally rejuvenating. Perhaps an extended savasana after yoga practice is another alternative?
Pain takes a tole on our nervous systems. No doubt chronic pain requires many individualized strategies. Thank you Dagmar for addressing this wide spread concern.
Cecile

Penny

Great article. I am a huge advocate of power napping. In a world where we live in a constant fight or flight state via the sympathetic nervous system it is remarkable what taking time out to activate the parasympathetic nervous system can do for the body. Thank you!

Amie Alapeteri

Hi! I like the way you lay out the information here. I am a person with Systemic Lupus, and deal with chronic pain. This is great information. I use power naps when I am able to (not often). Power naps work great when you can get them! The sleeping techniques are tried and true, though I really fight the urge to watch TV, eat carbs at night, and do all of the things I shouldn’t do! What is new to me here is the abdominal breathing. We had a taste of this today in the YTU class, and I was… Read more »

Lisa Ricci

I love any post that advocates power napping. I’ve often found when writing in my graduate degree, a short repose (especially from the screen) does wonders for my concentration (I feel like I slept all night after 30 minutes!). Of course, it’s just a temporary fix, and I’ve come to realise, over time, that sleep is a non-negotiable. Thanks for making the connection especially between sleep and healing. When we’re injured and things happen more slowly, it’s easy to sacrifice sleep to keep up our ‘normal’ productivity levels. This is a great reminder that rest would contribute far more fruitfully… Read more »

Meredith Hutter Chamorro

Good article. I am glad you prefaced your explanation about sleep being so important with the knowledge that sleep can be especially hard for those of us with chronic pain. Then you took it further to give good suggestions about improving sleep hygiene. The part about your thoughts regarding sleep being important especially resonated with me — sleep disruption can be a self-fulfilling prophecy! And, of course, I totally agree about the deep abdominal breathing! Thank you.

Max Bayuk

Your “power nap” sounds like what my body tells me to do when I have time for a deep, extended savasana (great when there isn’t another yoga class coming in right after).

Kim T

Yeah! Thank you for this article and fantastic pose that’s both relaxing for the body and great for the brain. I don’t have chronic pain but I have chronic worries. While focusing on the breathing, I was able to stop the thinking mind. 5 minutes is great, the next time I will try for 10 minutes…just so I can see how much more calm I feel.

Mary

Thanks for the great article. I work with people who have cancer and pain and have found deep Diaphragmatic breathing often combined with meditation to be highly effective.

Jason Campbell

what a great post! Often in my yoga classes, I talk about how deep breathing can help reduce stress levels, but i’ve never thought to link it back to a tool to help deal with chronic pain! Thank you, you’ve just help give a little more context to my classes.

Dagmar Khan

Andrew, what a great news! There is nothing like an afternoom refresher! Our biology depends on it.

Andrew

I have been a proponent of the mid-day nap for a while now. In a lot of other countries, they have built in this mid-day nap/cool down into their daily routine, known as a ‘siesta’ in South American countries. I wake up with a refreshed, clearer mind ready to tackle my afternoon schedule.

Glenda Garcia

In my own life as well as in my role as an instructor/therapist, I dedicate ample time to exploring the relationship between the state of the nervous system and our physical, mental and emotional state of well being. My students are often surprised at how spending some time down regulating their CNS by doing breathing or relaxation exercises can drastically improve their performance in class.

Aaron Goodnow

i can’t wait to get home and try this breathing technique. I am already a power napper and rock solid sleeper. I’ve already started to incorporate belly breathing into my nightly “calm down” routine. I hadn’t considered using this for a reset on the nervous system. Cant wait to try…

Joshua

After living abroad for 5 years and returning to America I suffered from both chronic pain and sleep problems. I sought out treatment through yoga, accupuncture, yoga tune up, relaxation techniques and counseling to attempt to work through the issues. Ultimately all these avenues helped, although I found restful sleep after incorperating magnesium, cold showers and raw egg yolks into my night time regime. I was always skeptical about the min/body connection to physical and emotional pain until I experienced it for myself. Having a strong social support network around my yoga studio was critical to helping me work through… Read more »

Veronica Dinehart

I appreciate these simple tools for coaching our bodies through stress to alleviate some chronic pain. I have back pain and when it flares up sleep is nearly impossible. I found your suggestions around changing the negative ideas I have regarding sleep to be very helpful.

Jared Cohen

As a coach and someone who has struggled with chronic digestive issues for quite some time, I cannot hear enough about down-regulation tricks. Similar to the simple adage, “quality over quantity,” we all objectively agree chronically going in and out of fight or flight is not beneficial; however, many of us subjectively are tuned out of how the majority of our day to day lives is sympathetically driven. In this context, it is helpful to remind myself of the ATM analogy: One’s sympathetic response is the act of withdrawing from one’s bank account; whereas, one’s parasympathetic response is the act… Read more »

Angie

A lullaby for the central nervous system is such a beautiful reference, this really resonated with me and helped me to create a softer mindset for this practice. I appreciate you mentioning the benefits of breathing through the nostrils and how it warms and moistens the breath.

Karen

Thank you. I will try these out.