How to Calm The Nervous System

Are you feeling stressed? If so, here are three simple ways to calm the nervous system, right away.

We tend to hold tension in our bodies, especially when we're stressed, in the areas around our chest and belly. By relieving this tension, through some very simple steps, we can feel calmer in a matter of seconds.

While it's always nice to be in a quiet and inviting space, these steps can be done almost anywhere: standing at the sink, sitting on your couch or lying in bed. Keep your eyes open or closed and, if possible, breathe in and out of your nose.

1. Place your hands on your chest and belly.

Place your right hand on your chest, and your left hand on your belly. Take a moment to observe how it feels to hold yourself. This simple act can be very nourishing, almost like a hug. Notice, with gentle curiosity, how your body feels under the weight of your hands.

Stay here as long as you'd like.

2. Take deep breaths.

When we're stressed we often breathe shallowly, using only a fraction of our lung capacity. Deep breaths help to calm the mind and body, and send a message to our nervous system that we're safe.

For these next steps, feel free to keep your hands on your chest and belly, or allow them to drop alongside your body or to rest on your lap.

As you inhale, imagine drawing the breath as far down into your body as possible. Allow your belly to expand as you bring your breath to the lowest part of your lungs. As you exhale, release as much air out of your lungs as possible- without holding onto any tension. Notice, with gentle curiosity, what it feels like to breathe deeply.

Stay here as long as you'd like.

3. Lengthen your exhalation.

Now, for my favorite tip of all: exhale for twice the amount of time as it takes for you to inhale.

For example, if it takes a count of three to deeply inhale (one, two, three), then exhale over a count of six (one, two, three, four, five, six). Find your own pace- maybe it's a count of two for the inhalation and four for exhalation. Just double the length of your exhalations, staying relaxed. This is my favorite exercise if I'm having a hard time falling asleep as it immediately calms me down.

If you feel anxious or nervous while doing these exercises, stop. Breathe normally and return to them when you feel ready.

Your breath is your constant companion. By simply bringing your attention to your body and breath, you can immediately calm your nervous system and begin to relax.

 Click here to watch Liz walking through steps one and two on the local news! 

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