A few weeks ago, I reconnected with a musician who had been doing some body mapping work with me. The performance schedule was demanding, significant travel was involved and life just got in the way of continuing education. One of the first things the musician said was “I am sorry, I needed to take a break.” My response was “No apology needed, let’s get some dates on the calendar.”
Taking breaks is vital. We all need them. One of the coolest things about learning physiology is that you learn that there are pairs of mechanisms. For every mechanism that speeds something up, we have a mechanism for slowing it down. There is a mechanism to increase temperature and another one to reduce it and so on for many things that happen inside our body. Our autonomic nervous system is always working to maintain homeostasis, which is a fancy way of saying that our bodies want to be in a state of equilibrium. Our sympathetic nervous system is one that can be summarized as fight or flight. Here are some functions of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS): dilation of the pupils, increase of heart rate and heart muscle contraction, vasoconstriction of peripheral circulation (which means that more blood is going to heart and internal organs and less to muscles on the outside like hands), inhibition of aspects of digestions and sexual reproduction. We want to be able to fight against the threat or we want to be really fast to escape. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is often called rest and digest. At its most basic level, it reverses all of the functions I just listed. Pupils constrict, the heart rate decreases and digest and reproduction functions come back on line. We need them both. If you want to know more specific info about the SNS and PNS, you can click here.
So often, my students are going and going and going. They are busy people. They are also college students who sometimes (often, maybe even always) procrastinate and cause themselves to be in situations where they have a lot to do in very little time. Then they go off to summer festivals where they are just as busy. I encourage them to take some time away from the instrument, doing things to relax, to recharge, and then to reassess what needs to happen in the next weeks and months.
Personally, I just finished attending the Association of Body Mapping Education’s professional conference at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. You might be thinking – “Hey, wait. Professional conferences aren’t relaxing. That’s work.” While I was working (two performances, a few rehearsals, a few meetings, and a presentation, it was a much needed break for me. I have been the treasurer, the secretary, a board member, conference registrar, and the conference chair (2019) for every conference since 2007. This was, indeed, an opportunity for rest and relaxation because I wasn’t running the whole thing! All I had to do was show up and do what I was supposed to! I also was able to take a break from my roles as parent, chief scheduler, and transportation staff. But more importantly, this was a time to reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the world, as well as time to make new friends. We all need to take time to regularly fill our tanks with the fuel we need to function as humans, students, and teachers. Like the flight attendants always say before every flight – “Please secure your own mask before helping others.” Take the break, recharge and come back ready to engage with the all the world has to offer.