Best Ways to Relax: A Parasympathetic State for Vibrant Health: The state of your nervous system plays a crucial role in generating vibrant health. Today we will explore why tapping into the parasympathetic is so vital and a handful of ways in which you can do that from the comfort of your own home.
What is a Parasympathetic State?
Your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) has two dominant states: sympathetic and parasympathetic. These systems predominantly run involuntary mechanisms like heart rate, blood pressure, cell activity, respiration, digestion, and body temperature. 
The parasympathetic state is known as the “rest and digest” state when your body is relaxed. This period is when your body is essentially healing. According to our ancestral biology, it is said that the body should optimally be in a parasympathetic state approximately 80 percent of the time. 
Although we should spend the majority of our day in a parasympathetic state for optimal health, the reality is that many people spend most of their days in a predominantly sympathetic state.
A sympathetic state is known as the “fight, flight, or freeze” state. A state of stress generally induces sympathetic. Note that not all forms of stress are innately “bad,” but it can become problematic when stress is a chronic state. Stress inhibits the parasympathetic response, and the body’s essential healing processes shut down. [3, 4]
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are always operational together, but there is a balance between them; one is still more active than the other. These two branches of the nervous system operate with a push-pull dynamic. Each system is activated thanks to different physical and mental states of being.
The predominantly sympathetic state makes energy available so that muscles can mobilize, fight, or flee. It’s under a sympathetic state that the heart rate is elevated, and as a result, digestion halts. Your body’s resources are focused on dealing with the potential threat at hand, which is the only time our ancestors would experience these periods of higher stress: during a hunt, or while being hunted. 
There is a constant calibration between the two systems with one or the other playing a more active role at any given time. The vagus nerve facilitates the state of balance between our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. It originates in the brain and wraps through almost every organ in the body.
The yin and yang pull of these two systems keeps our body in homeostasis or balance. Together they ensure that we have enough resources, in the right places, at the right time. All processes of your healing and health maintenance, including digestion, detoxification, immune activities, tissue regeneration, and arousal, happen in the parasympathetic state. As a result, almost all diseases and dysfunction result from you not being able to drop into the parasympathetic (healing) state. [4, 6]
The activating of the sympathetic nervous system is what ensures our survival as a species. Whenever there is stress present, it will, therefore, act as a trump card and suppress the parasympathetic. Stress triggers are not exclusive to the ancestral physical types of stress, and also include chemical and emotional stressors.
Leaning into the parasympathetic state in modern-day, given all the types of chronic stress we face as a civilization, requires constant effort.
How To Stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System
There are many tools and tricks to relax the body and activate the parasympathetic (vagal) tone. Let’s explore some of the top ways below.
1. Breath Work
The breath is one of the few parts of the autonomic nervous system that operate unconsciously and consciously. By harnessing the power of our breath, we can actually increase our body’s parasympathetic state.
Slow, deep breathing increases the activity in the vagus nerve, which has a relaxation ripple effect on the whole body. Controlling the breath helps signal to the body that there is no imminent threat.
Box breathing is a useful technique, in which you inhale for 5, hold for 5, exhale for 5, and hold for 5 (repeat). Other methods include breathing in for five and breathing out for 9 (repeat). [7, 8]
2. Adequate Sleep and Rest Post-Exercise
Adequate sleep and recovery from exercise may be one of the most obvious ways to calm down the nervous system. A single night of poor sleep will disrupt heart rate variability, raise your resting heart rate, and raise core body temperature.
Over-training (in other words, under recovering) is a significant source of stress on the body. Proper recovery requires a combination of appropriate nutrition, hydration, and sleep. Adequate sleep refers not only to the quantity but, more importantly, the quality. Quality sleep addresses an array of lifestyle factors, like enough exposure to daylight, minimizing exposure to artificial light, having a regular sleep time, and sleeping in a bedroom with no electronics and minimal electromagnetic frequencies. [9, 10]
Meditation is one of the ways to calm the body down and increase vagal tone while reducing stress. Meditation enhances breathing, increases oxygen uptake, improves nutrient flow, and improves circulation. As a result, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure drop as the body leans into a parasympathetic state. There are various techniques, including mantras, guided meditation, or solely focusing on the breath. [11, 12]
4. Yoga/ Stretching
Yoga and stretching can calm the mind while also incorporating movement. Gentle yoga (like yin or restorative) and stretching provide similar benefits as breathwork and meditation, by promoting more oxygen and calming the heart rate. But even more vigorous practices that include sun salutations or kaphalabhati breathing have a calming effect on the nervous system because more relaxing ones always follow more active practices. Finishing class with more static, calming poses (like savasana) allow the body to slip into deep states of relaxation and calm. [13, 14]
What you eat plays a crucial role in your body’s stress response in a couple of ways. The quality of your food is imperative because highly processed and nutrient-void foods have been linked to inflammatory reactions in the body. Foods like vegetable oils, refined sugar, and flours may lead to inflammation in the body, which activated a stress response in the body.
Quantity of food also plays a role in relaxing or stimulating a stress response. Chronic food deprivation or low caloric intake (anorexia nervosa) and chronic over-eating (obesity) are both associated with a disruption in HRV and other metrics related to the sympathetic nervous system. [15, 16]
6. Essential Oils
Aromatherapy has been used since ancient times to promote sensations of calm and relaxation. Inhaling and topically applying pure essential oils may help to promote relaxation, a deeper sleep, and improve mood. Essential oils can help stimulate areas of the brain that are responsible for our emotions, and therefore play a crucial role in shifting us into a more parasympathetic state.
Plant matter has been associated with an array of incredible properties, including better digestion, anti-inflammatory, soothing, and relaxing effects. Essential oils offer a distillation of these plant matters, to be used with the same intention of ‘food as medicine’. [17- 19]
Parasympathetic™ is an example of an essential oil blend that uses clove and lime to help melt away stress, elevate mood, boost energy, improve digestion, and regain focus. This blend may also calm inflammation by releasing the anti-inflammatory neurotransmitter Acetylcholine.
Chronic inflammation generates stress, so stimulating your vagus nerve with Parasympathetic™ to can help reduce inflammation and support the optimal balance of your body’s stress response.
The Parasympathetic™ blend can be applied topically on the vagus nerve behind the on the neck can help manually override a stress response and help reset the autonomic nervous system.
The human body’s Autonomic Nervous System has two dominant states: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Living in a high-stress world that includes physical, chemical, and emotional stress has led to an imbalance between the two states. Chronic levels of underlying stress mean that we spend the majority of our day in a sympathetic state, also known as ‘fight or flight.’
The parasympathetic state is key to generating vibrant health since it is the ‘rest and digest’ phase that enables the body to use its resources on healing. There are a variety of ways to help promote activation of the parasympathetic, including breath work, adequate rest, meditation, yoga, proper nutrition, and the use of essential oils.