How to calm your nervous system:
Our autonomic nervous system ANS comprises of two major branches (put in a very simple way) the sympathetic, and the parasympathetic.
When we feel anxious, you know that feeling of the heart rate going up, sometimes we feel it is in our throat, we may feel sweaty or cold hands and maybe even a bit shaky. That is when our sympathetic nervous system SNS alerts us to some danger, sometimes these are real dangers, and sometimes are only real for our nervous system J
To calm down, we need to help our parasympathetic nervous system PNS, to switch on. We can help it to do so by exploring a deep breathing suggested by Dr Rick Hanson;
When you inhale, fill your lungs fully, hold for a second or so, and then exhale in a relaxed way. Try breathing in this way for 60 seconds.
It works because deep, long inhalations expand your bronchioles: the passageways in your lungs to the tiny alveoli where oxygen enters the blood and carbon dioxide leaves it. The PNS is in charge of constricting the bronchioles, so by making them swell up with a big breath, you trigger the PNS to bring them back to their “resting”size.
For our nervous system to experience safety and be able to turn on, the PNS the brain has to ‘know’ that we are safe. Looking around, moving your head and looking at the details of the area wherever you are, in the room, park, office or front of the computer will turn on your orienting response which helps our brain to evaluate whether we are in danger or not. These will signal that you are in the here and now, and that you are safe.
Getting back into your body and having a good feeling that you are in control of it will also help. Moving your joints, wrists, ankles, knees etc. will activate proprioception, which is a big word, but it means the sense of balance in our own body.
Our heart rate variability is another factor. This is basically the difference between our resting heart rate, (sitting front of the computer J) and when we exercise or do something else that brings up our heart rate. The bigger the difference, the healthier our heart is, and the more flexible our nervous system. So exercise is important! Sorry J
Practicing these simple skills when you are not actually in a stressful situation is very helpful, so the PNS can remember easily what to do when we need it to step in and help us out.
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