Deep pressure therapy, also called weighted blankets, has gained attention lately as a therapy for restless legs, anxiety, and sensory processing challenges, just to name a few.
I have one of my own and love using it particularly in the colder Minnesota months, which is pretty much most of the year.
What I love most about deep pressure therapy is it's a easy way to de-stress. I am often caring of my 3 year old daughter during the day, most days it is quite the roller coaster of emotions and activities.
My weighted blanket is my go to rescue for calm amongst the busy toddler energy. I’ll throw it on my lap as we color or squish playdough, and soon I’m feeling at ease again.
Originally these blankets gained popularity as a therapy for sensory processing issues or people on the autism spectrum. But really, it can help anyone, we are all living in a stressful world, and we could all use some help to calm down and relax.
The theory behind the blanket is deep pressure therapy, which means, it is a therapy which uses a gentle pressure upon the whole body. The effect of the weight (or pressure) upon the body for a sustained duration engages the proprioceptors in your body, which then alerts your autonomic nervous system to give control over to the parasympathetic nervous system.
What that means is, it takes you out of flight and fight and puts you in to calm and collected. So it can help to you unwind after a stressful day at work (or negotiations with a tired 3 year old).
So how does this help extend the benefits of your craniosacral therapy?
Well, the pressure balances your body’s nervous system, just like craniosacral therapy does. The body’s response will release endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, the wonderful trifecta of feel good hormones we could all use more of. Overall you will feel calm, your muscles relax, your heart rate and blood pressure will improve.
Does any of this sound or feel familiar to your craniosacral session?
Well that’s because craniosacral therapy also enhances your parasympathetic nervous system, releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
So let’s say you invest your time and money on a craniosacral session, only to go to a stressful job and have to deal with Minneapolis road construction and traffic. Soon your body will be back into stressed-out mode.
But you can help your body get back into that relaxed state just as you felt after your session by using deep pressure therapy. It will also help the fascia and muscles stayed relaxed, so your body can keep its fascial release and healthy alignment you achieved during your craniosacral session.
With craniosacral therapy, and others like it, the goal is often to help your body increase time spent in a relaxed state. Its effects are cumulative.
Think of your parasympathetic nervous system as a muscle, you need to continue to engage it in healthy ways to keep it strong and active. So keep at it, keep getting those craniosacral therapy sessions and investing in ways to nourish and nurture your body.
Here’s some important tips on finding the right blanket.
We have all experienced how emotions affect our breathing. We get excited and naturally take in a deep breath before saying something like "oh my!" Or if we are scared we hold our breath in.
Our emotions affect our breath. And we can use our breath to change our emotions. Our breath has a direct relationship with our nervous system and stress response.
To calm ourselves with breath the easiest practice to do is to create a longer exhale breath than inhale. Simply breathe out a few seconds longer than your inhale.
This works because the out breath engages the parasympathetic nervous system. It has a biological effect to calm us down and take our bodies out of a high alert, stress state of being.
I LOVE a good sigh.
Especially after good news or I’ve just finished something stressful. It can feel so good, hhhaaa.
Did you know we naturally sigh about 12 times an hour? You’re probably not aware of it because it’s an automatic mechanism of respiration. And because they are usually pretty quiet.
Physiologically they are used to increase lung volume and to exercise alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are the small “air sacks” in the lungs where oxygen is exchanged with the blood capillaries. So sighing is pretty important for the physiology of breathing.
Sighing also plays an important role in psychological health. They are unconscious outward expression of emotions and automatic reactions to stressors. For example, a big sigh before speaking to a group of people.
It is also a response to changes of the autonomic nervous system, when a body goes from sympathetic to parasympathetic, or vice versa. A sigh can be your body’s way of revving up for a stressful event or your body’s way to down regulate your body’s stress response. It can engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
So why not turn this non-conscious reaction into a purposeful little treat for yourself?
Click Read More below to learn how to start your own sigh practice.
Dealing with depression or anxiety can be hard. Exhausting. Frustrating. Isolating. I think so often our society doesn't view depression or anxiety as a medical condition. But they really are chronic conditions. There can be good days and bad days. Or there can be bad weeks and months. Just like flare-ups of chronic conditions like chronic fatigue or IBS.
But it's a disease, an illness. And yeah, exercise and diet, CranioSacral Therapy, meditation, relaxation methods, these all help. They can make a real difference. But there will be times they are not enough. All these things are great to do when your feeling good. They can help those good days last longer. That's why they are complementary.
I've recently discovered different kind medical option to help the fight with depression and anxiety that is not a drug. And bonus, it also helps with physical pain and headaches. It is called ALPHA-STIM and it is a cranial electrotherapy devise. Yes, I am a CranioSacral Therapy and I endorse using electrotherapy, on your cranium. And it feels great. Well, actually it doesn't feel like anything except dizzy if you turn it up too high. If you get dizzy or loopy, just turn it down till it goes away. Less is more.
I have been using mine for a couple months now. And it has been much more effective for me than any medication I've tried for depression or anxiety.
I have experienced better sleep. Slower thoughts. More command over racing or negative thoughts. I have more energy. Overall, I just feel better. My husband says I've gotten my playfulness back! It's been wonderful for me, and us. Life is easier.
The technology behind Alpha-STIM is starting to gain exposure. It is a low level electrical stimulation that puts your brain into an alpha state. Like meditating, but easy and painless. There are two clips you put on your ears and it fits easily into my back pocket. I wear it while cooking or getting ready for the day. I don't feel anything, except after a few minutes I notice I'm more relaxed and my mind is clear.
What I love about using this is you buy the device and that's it. No prescriptions each month. It wasn't exactly cheap, but it's a one-time cost. So the potential to save is big over the years.
I don't have anything to gain for promoting this device. I just want more people to be aware of this option. Check out their website to learn more! https://www.alpha-stim.com/
Have you 've tried it out or are you interested in getting one for yourself? I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let us know.
What is self-care?
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Janet Crow MS, CMT, CST-T
557 West 7th Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102