What is sensory rest?  The women I work with often say things like, “I can’t relax enough to meditate.” or “I have to listen to books while I’m falling asleep or I’ll ruminate over my day.” or “I feel exhausted even when I got a full night’s rest.”  In this post I am going to talk about the importance of sensory rest.  I’ll discuss why middle-aged women with trauma histories might find that they are tired all the time.  Furthermore, I’ll explore adrenal fatigue and other symptoms related to chronic stress.  

Introduction: Making Space for Personal Work

Sacrifice means to set aside, to make sacred. 

 I believe that any personal work, soul work, requires a conscious choice to make space for it.

 Slowing Down to Notice the Beauty in Life

The beauty is in the moment, though, so we have to slow down to notice it. 

Yesterday, that moment for me was the sunrise. It surprised me and took my breath away. The dog and I stood in the cold and watched it. In the morning stillness, I felt connected to my body and nature. 

I experienced a subtle but profound shift. These shifts don’t happen when we are racing around, busy, and thinking every moment of our waking day. 

This winter, I have been spending effort engaging in sensory rest. Here’s a great video about different types of rest, including sensory rest. 

Sensory rest is reducing the sensory stimuli in our environment so that our bodies can wind down. For example, spending quiet time in a candle-lit room or soft music. What do you find to be a sensory hug? This practice isn’t just for those with “sensory issues”; we all have sensory needs. It’s just a matter of how tuned in and sensitive we are to this awareness.

Embodiment Work: Calming Down

Here’s a guided meditation video I made with visualizations to help reduce overstimulation in social situations. Yes, I mean you, introvert. I see you. 

Putting Down Our Guard

This cultivated awareness can be challenging for those who have childhood trauma and have been on guard all their lives. The winding down may be more difficult, but it’s much more necessary for mental and physical health. This practice becomes a crucial lifeline that anchors your awareness and allows you to deal with challenges like people-pleasing, self-neglect, and adrenal fatigue.

Others find their bodies too wound up to relax, meditate, sleep, etc. Active meditations like this art therapy technique might be enough stimulation to concentrate on one thing so that you can work on slow breathing. Whatever it takes to trick the monkey mind, right? 

Navigating Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma, often residing in the unconscious, can manifest as symptoms such as stomach issues, migraines, and immunological disorders. Unpacking these symptoms is a vital aspect of trauma therapy. We’ll explore how sensory rest aids in recovering from adrenal fatigue, improving sleep, and untangling the complex web of exhaustion. Next, I’ll talk more about the effects of stress on health.

Adrenal Fatigue:

Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, and nervousness, which are effects of chronic stress and an overtaxed adrenal system. However, it’s essential to note that mainstream medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue as a medical condition. In my opinion, there are a lot of things in the pharmaceutical, profit-driven, patriarchal system that discount women’s experiences of their bodies.  

On the other hand, the impact of chronic stress on mental health is well-established. Prolonged stress can lead to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a complex set of interactions between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. These glands play a crucial role in the body’s stress response.

Here’s how chronic stress, and potentially the concept of adrenal fatigue, might impact mental health:

1. Cortisol Imbalance

Chronic stress can lead to imbalances in cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which research shows links to conditions such as anxiety and depression.

2. Sleep Disturbances

Adrenal fatigue is often associated with disrupted sleep patterns. Poor sleep is a significant factor in mental health issues, contributing to mood disorders and cognitive difficulties.

3. Impact on Neurotransmitters

Chronic stress can influence neurotransmitter levels in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters play a crucial role in regulating mood, and imbalances are associated with conditions like depression.

4. Cognitive Function

Prolonged stress may impair cognitive function, affecting memory, concentration, and decision-making abilities. These cognitive difficulties can contribute to mental health challenges.

5. Psychological Impact

Feeling constantly exhausted and overwhelmed by stress can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and a diminished sense of well-being.

It’s essential to recognize the interplay between physical and mental health. Addressing chronic stress through lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and seeking support when needed can be vital in promoting overall well-being. However, consulting with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and guidance tailored to individual circumstances is advisable. Holistic and functional medicine doctors will look deeper into how to approach your overall, long-term well-being.  

Final Thoughts

As we venture into the depths of sensory rest, let’s recognize its profound impact on the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of middle-aged women with childhood trauma. This intentional practice is a pathway to rediscovering the self, prioritizing personal needs, and embarking on a journey toward holistic healing. 

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