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Cry Me A River- How Crying (& Hiking) Activates Your Parasympathetic Nervous System.

This is a reminder for myself this week. I have taken on so much lately on every level and finally stopped in my tracks, called BS on my story and reset. I'd been telling my story of strength for so long that I no longer felt that I could be perceived as weak, to ask for help or simply to cry.

I've had a long standing on-off relationship with tears. My Armour that I wear into the world wouldn't allow it, but taking that Armour off, exposed and vulnerable, I chose to cry and I feel better! Tears don't mean you're weak, conversely, they show you're human capable of emotion and its a great stress response!

The suppressing of tears creates the stress response in our bodies, we are still on high alert, sweaty and tense. When we allow our self the release with a good cry it stimulates the relaxation pathways for breathing, heart rate and sweat production to return to normal. Activating the tear ducts to stimulate tears, saliva production and subsequently digestive fluids, our nervous system find balance.

When our bodies experience stress- whether emotionally or physically- the body initiates the flight or fight, survival response. Adrenals flood the body with adrenaline and cortisol which elevates heart rate induces sweat production, breathing and thoughts race, preparing our bodies to either confront or flee from the perceived threat. The sympathetic nervous system is on high alert!

Crying is one of the best ways to reset your parasympathetic nervous system. It releases the pent up negative energy and the tears, like all water, is cathartic of cleansing our energy centres.

Not all stress is bad. Sometimes we can experience positive stress; this type of stress motivates us, excites us and allows us to perform at our optimal level. The 'stress' of exercise, pushing ourselves physically and mentally to achieve a task can be incredibly rewarding.

It is under extended periods of emotional stress, anxiety and the experiences that feel out of our capabilities, that we start to experience the negative stress.

Mentally this may look like:

  • Brain fog, memory problems, racing mind

  • Tiredness

  • Poor sleep – finding it hard to get up in the morning even after 8+ hours sleep

  • Emotionally reactive, anxiety, depression

Physically it shows up:

  • Weakness & lethargy

  • Muscle loss and weight gain

  • Weakened immunity- Inability to heal, illness

  • Digestive issues

  • Cholesterol issues, increase risk of heart disease

  • Cravings for salty or sweet foods or stimulants

A walk in nature activates our parasympathetic nervous system- the rest and digest, calming response. Green spaces trigger an innate primal receptiveness. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for growth, repair, energy production and our overall well-being.

Turn to NATURE to Nurture:

  • Significantly decreased the levels of stress hormones· Lowers blood pressure and heart rate (walking slowly)

  • Suppresses sympathetic nervous system and increases parasympathetic nervous activity, bringing your nervous system into balance and creating a sense of comfort and relaxation

  • Increases endorphins and stimulates a good mood

  • Engages both left and right hemispheres of the brain resulting in creative and practical thinking and divisive solutions.

  • Boosts immunity by significantly increases the number of NK (Natural Killer) cells and activity, as well as increasing the activity of anti-cancer proteins

  • Increase hours of sleep (allowing adrenals to recover)

  • Improves cardiovascular and metabolic health

  • Helps lose or maintain weight

  • Mindfully paying attention to your surroundings creates a sense of awe and wonderment

Time spent in nature allows us to tap into the interconnectedness with all life. It holds a space for introspection, reflection and action. Nature teaches us of perspective, acceptance, of ebb and flow, of contrasts. Cycles of life are apparent and understood in Nature, we need only apply these theories to better understand ourselves.

Some reflections to consider;

Key to dealing with any type of stress or anxiety is identifying your triggers and determining ways to mitigate the damaging effects of stress. Ask yourself;

What makes me feel stressed or anxious?

Task load, inability to do something, someone, events?

Where does stress show up for me physically?

In the belly? Bowels? Frequency to the toilet, nail biting, forehead, temples?

How do I behave?

What emotions am I using? Anger, frustration? Avoid gym, sports etc

What are positive actions I can take when I feel like this?

Go for a walk, read a book in bed, have a shower/bath, call a friend.

Create a few ‘go-to’ responses that are positively driven that work for you.

For me, a walk outdoors, ideally bush somewhere, always resets my internal nervous system. If i can't get out for a walk, I have go to options that make me feel better, keep me on track and supporting my holistic health. Don't get unstuck in negative cycles- they compound the initial issue!

Join me as we explore these themes and more on our group hikes!

Dates on Calendar

Amanda x

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