Self-calm – Key ideas to understand

Understand the key principles of how to regulate the nervous system and shift emotional state in order to make it easier to use whatever tool or process suits you best. 

The relaxation response:

When you are calm, resting or feeling well your body is under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a relaxing effect. When you breathe slowly and rhythmically or focus on slow, rhythmic movements, you stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and switch off the stress response. This is called the relaxation response and is what helps reduce the stress hormones and release endorphins into the bloodstream. (Endorphins are more powerful than morphine in reducing discomfort and relaxing the body)

Imagination: “Where the mind flows, the body follows”

What the mind imagines creates a physical response in the body and sets off different trains of thoughts (either useful or not). Start to notice when you are allowing your imagination to take you off into an unhelpful reality tunnel and then do something to bring yourself back into this moment now. We can think of anxiety as the ‘mis-use’ of the imagination so these techniques are part of learning to retrain our focus into more positive and useful habits.

Focus:

What you focus on mentally creates your emotional and psychological experience in each moment. The more we focus on something the more it’s amplified in our experience.
The following techniques help to divert your attention away from negative thoughts or worries. Allowing yourself to be in the ‘Now’ is like stepping off a negative thought train and giving yourself a moment to feel in control again. Counting numbers, using physical touch or other rituals are helpful to direct your focus into a more comfortable and calming experience.

Rhythm:

Think of being in a stressed state as being out of rhythm vs a calm state which is more flowing, smooth, and balanced in rhythm. Counting numbers or using movement can help you find a calming rhythm as can listening to relaxing music. When you are feeling calm and safe, at rest, or engaged in a pleasant activity, our breathing naturally slows and deepens by itself.

Self-talk:

Words evoke feelings and ideas in the mind. It’s almost impossible to experience anxiety without negative self-talk or inner dialogue which is focusing on the negative. Repeating calming words or phrases in the present tense within your mind can be a powerful way to gain the most benefit from these exercises – eg: peace and calm, I am calming myself, every day in every way, I’m feeling better and better etc

Nutrition & Hydration:

There is a direct link between our emotions, immune system and what we consume. It might be obvious and common sense for most of us, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves that too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and salt can affect our hormonal balance, sleep patterns and stress levels. Dehydration will cause a spike in adrenalin and the symptoms of stress as well.

Regular pauses through the day:

Our brains need a break every 90 to 120 minutes. This cycle is called the ultradian rhythm. Our modern lifestyle and technology often encourage us to override this, plough on, and ignore this physiological need. Not taking breaks leads to an overactivation of the nervous system and ultimately higher stress. We’ll often experience this emotionally and then think it’s an emotional issue. To improve overall balance and focus, it’s important to take pauses through the day even if it’s just a few minutes.

Sunlight & fresh air:

Often people suffering with anxiety tend to stay inside for long periods. Getting outside each day is so important for overall wellbeing. It’s been proven that getting natural sunlight into the eyes within a couple of hours of waking up can greatly reduce stress, balance hormones, and improve sleep patterns. The same goes from forward movement so just a simple walk can make a huge difference to calming down and regulating the nervous system

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