The Easiest Way To Calm Your Nervous System
Ever notice how you breathe when you are anxious?
My guess is that you are breathing through your mouth with short, shallow breaths.
Taking a long, deep breath through the nose is the easiest way to calm your nervous system.
Your nervous system (officially called the Autonomic Nervous System or ANS) runs along the entire length of the spine, starting at the base of the brain all the way down to your pelvis and transports information from our senses (sights, sounds, smells, taste, touch) to our brain, and in turn controls and regulates our heart rate, digestion and respiratory rate.
There are two parts of your nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the fight-and-flight response, and the parasympathetic system, which manages rest and digestion.
Balancing these two systems is essential for managing our anxiety, and we can do that by simply adjusting our breath.
The Ideal Breath
The ideal breath is …
1. Through the nose.
Interesting fact: Mouth breathers have higher rates of anxiety.
2. Into your belly.
Not shallow in the chest. We are looking for deep into the belly.
3. With an exhale slightly longer than you inhale.
Breathe in to a count of 5, hold for 1 and exhale to a count of 6.
Move Your Attention
Add this ninja move as you breathe to really settle your nervous system.
When we are anxious, our attention tends to be up in our heads, following our thoughts, which run in fast, tight loops.
To level up the experience, SLOW DOWN and intentionally move your attention as you breathe.
With each in-breath, sit up straight as you follow your breath deep into your belly.
And with each out-breath, allow yourself to relax while keeping a straight spine.
If it helps, visualize a string running through your spine and out the top of your head.
Continue to breathe in this way for about a minute.
Repeat 3 to 5 times to flip the switch and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system and R E L A X.