The nervous system has two main components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The first is responsible for our willingness to fight and flee, helping us counteract a problematic situation. It has to do with tension, concentration, intensity, increased alertness, adrenaline, nervousness, domination, opposition, and conflict. Sounds exciting. But excitement, just like driving a car fast, uses it up more quickly. It is not advisable to be in this state all the time. So, we have a parasympathetic system related to regeneration and relaxation.

These systems work with different intensities in different life situations. When we are highly stressed, it is a sign that the first one is working at full speed. When we are completely relaxed, the second one is more active. Most often, activities in our life keep both systems involved, so we rarely experience the extreme of just one.

When we hear about regeneration or relaxation, we usually perceive them as temporary phenomena. We naturally associate sleeping with regeneration after working during the day. When we have a professionally active week, we go to a party on the weekend or to the mountains with family to recharge our batteries and return to work refreshed. But regeneration and relaxation also have a broader meaning.

Appropriate understanding of these phenomena can provide us with long-term effects and increase the chances that our body will work better over the years, age slower, and recover faster.

If we are a pushover at work or we fail to do daily tasks, the chances of an overactive sympathetic nervous system are much greater, and therefore our body regenerates much worse. The part of the nervous system responsible for regeneration is not allowed to flourish, we age faster, catching many diseases along the way. The process is too subtle, and usually takes years to materialize.

Managing these two components of our nervous system is a way of advanced regeneration and it usually goes unnoticed or neglected, especially by the elderly.

As people become older and mature, they also take on a greater sense of responsibility. They become more disciplined, focused, and serious about life; all this tension stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. As they become older, it is easier for them to give up the attributes and activities of their youth, though it is these that often turn out to be the best relaxation strategies. Dancing, sports, sex, “the art of doing nothing”, avoiding responsibility and the burden of tedious work. Being young, however, we do not see the value of all these activities because they come too naturally. As we age, we gradually lose them and forget how we lived when we were young.

In old age, when we need relaxation and regeneration the most, we no longer remember how we used to allow ourselves to do much more to strengthen life’s bliss.

And yet in a state of relaxation, we have contact with life-giving energy, which is pleasant and does that which we should experience as much as possible in old age – it heals. It allows for better blood flow and deeper emotions. It’s easy to see when someone is permanently upset because they usually have cold hands, it’s an effect of stress. Relaxation is not and should not be a reward for a good performance or completion of work. Relaxation should be a natural part of life. It should be our duty, just like work. As parents who are responsible for our children, we are not only responsible for their biological needs. Children also have emotional needs, and these are easier to provide for when we are relaxed.

When in this state, love, empathy, and care will flow naturally from us and we will not miss it in the rush of life’s responsibilities. Otherwise, we project too much discipline on to our children. We only give them orders and directions, we control them, we criticize them. We literally speak through our sympathetic nervous system, so the energy between us and our children is usually very tense.

Regeneration and relaxation are associated with a complete flow of energy, both physical and emotional. Let’s think about how intensely and joyfully energy flows through us during dance, social sports, massage, feasts by the fire, exciting cultural performances, or watching good movies while traveling.

Relaxation may be hidden in activities, but it is also a state of mind, and I’m not just talking about the popular concept of meditation, but about our overall approach to life. Two different people may go through the same activities in completely different ways. Both of them can still implement their plan at almost 100%, but one of them can do it without being bothered along the way, without facing problems, not taking anger out on others, not trying to adjust the world to, or imposing the impossible on, themselves. Such a person will experience blissful states very often and work will flow by itself. The other person can also achieve their goals, but it will be a road through hell, and the toxins released along the way will permanently affect their health.

Let’s imagine that we make an appointment with a friend and that person does not show up on time. We have the choice to either be irritated for the next few minutes, cursing our friend mentally, holding ourselves up in a state of negativity, or, we can choose to read an interesting article on our phone and time will pass unnoticed. This person will probably turn up anyway, but we can either keep our body in toxic stress, or let it regenerate. As you can see, regeneration is not just about sports, dancing, or watching movies. Regeneration is present throughout life, even in places we would never look for it.

Suppose our work, i.e., the activity that the average person devotes himself to most of the day, is not suited to our character and our desires. In that case, it may cause daily frustration, daily release of cortisol or other harmful substances because we hate our jobs. By keeping ourselves in these conditions, we let only the sympathetic system work. Meanwhile there are people working twice as hard as we do, but they are way more relaxed.

This way of thinking about relaxation can give us a chance to implement it better, and thus a long and healthy life. I do not believe that after a challenging year of work we can “recharge our batteries” during three weeks of vacation. Whatever spectacular event happens during the vacation it will not give us enough energy for another year of work. Likewise, we cannot eat dinner on one day and be full for the rest of the week. What happens to us daily is ultimately the manifestation of our real life and health.

You read a chapter from my book. If you like it read the entire book here

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