by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT
Our nervous system helps us process information and sensations between our body and brain. In a previous blog, I discussed the role our nervous system plays in helping our body regulate especially during times of stress or during a trauma event and the aftermath.
Strategies to Help You Calm Your Nervous System
I wanted to give you some more strategies to help you reregulate your nervous system during challenging times. The following are examples of relaxation and self-care methods that can help promote inner peace and harmony for both children and adults.
1. Seek Safe Relationships
When we are going through a distressing time, it is important to seek people that you feel safe with. Having someone that you trust and will listen to you or just sit quietly with you will help to calm your nervous system. Our bodies have “mirror neurons” in which one person’s body will shift to the same state as a person they are with. If you are with someone who is calm and reliable, your nervous will also calm itself and relax.
2. Practice Mindful Belly Breathing
Taking deep belly breaths helps the body take in more oxygen which helps you relax and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. It is easy to do where you are and it only takes a few minutes. Watch this video to learn how to take deep belly breaths. (add video of belly breathing) Try to schedule a time for deep breathing every day. It can be helpful to develop a morning or bedtime routine to help you start or end your day. Here is a video to show you how to do deep belly breathing.
3. Guided Meditations
Meditation can remove stress and replace it with a dose of inner peace. It’s one of the best tools we have to balance our emotions, deal with physical and psychological distress, and promote the peace of the present moment. But it can be tough to meditate without a teacher or guide. Guided meditations literally walk you through a meditation and help you find a calm and peaceful state—one step at a time. Try one of these guided meditations, each with a unique theme.
Exercise is helpful as it helps our body process our feelings and excess energy that we can feel as anxiety and stress. It also produces endorphins that produce ‘feel good hormones”. Whether you like to run, swim, do yoga, or walk around the block, you will feel the benefits of a calmer nervous system. Exercise can also stimulate the nervous system and help you when you feel like you are in a slump of sadness.
5. Listen to Music
Music is known as the “international language” because it does not know any geographical or political boundary. It is found in every culture and is one of the few activities that needs the function of the whole brain. Its positive effects are better moods, increased physical performance, and healing qualities. Music can also have negative effects as well, so choosing music that is uplifting and relaxing to you is important.
6. Using Aromatherapy to Relax
Research shows that using essential oils on your skin or in a diffuser, lighting scented candles, and burning incense all can have positive health benefits. Some of these advantages include easing stress, anxiety, and depression, improve sleep, and boost feelings of relaxation. Try some lavender oil to calm your body or peppermint oil to give you energy.
7. Make a List Of the Things You Appreciate
Making a daily habit of listing the things you appreciate can help you to remember the good in life. It helps to keep a focus on the bigger picture when life begins stressful moments. Sharing what you appreciate in your relationships with your partner, coworkers, family, and friends can also increase your connection with them.
8. Go to Your Happy Place Mentally
Sometimes we can get out of a distressing situation physically, such as a tense phone call with a customer at work, but we can mentally visualize going to our happy place and bring in the feelings of calm and empowerment. You get to create your happy place- it can be based on a real place you’ve been, an activity that brings you joy, or an imaginary place. The point is for it to bring you a sense of relaxation and relief when you think of it.
9. Physical Therapies- Massage & Floating
Make massage and floating a regular part of your self-care routine and you’ll be happy you did. We all need physical touch and massage is one way to receive the benefits of touch. Regular massage can help relieve muscle tension, reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep, and promote relaxation throughout your body.
Floating is another type of physical therapy where one floats in a sensory-deprivation tank. While it might sound terrifying, think of it as being wrapped in your own little cocoon of warmth and silence. The magic of floating is it puts you in a meditative state to better heal what ails you. Research has shown that floating decreases anxiety, depression, improves sleep and more optimism.
10. Find a Therapist Who Understands Trauma to Support You
Creating a support network that includes a trained trauma therapist is a helpful way to build your ability to heal and recover from traumatic experiences. An experienced trauma therapist can help you recognize when you are outside your window of tolerance and build personal strategies to soothe or stimulate your body.
11. Get Outside and Spend Time in Nature
Take some time to get outside and explore the benefits of being in nature. Scientists are beginning to find evidence that nature has a profound impact on our brains and behavior. Some advantages to spending time outside include reducing anxiety, brooding, and stress, and increasing our attention space, creativity, and ability to connect with other people. It is also free and easily accessible as we only need walk out our front door. Even a few minutes to listen to the birds chirp or take a walk around the block can benefit our body and nervous system in positive ways.
There are many ways to calm your nervous system. Find what works for you.
There are many unique and healthy ways you can learn to support your nervous system and bring it back into your window of tolerance. When you learn to work with your nervous system, you may increase your window of tolerance, which can allow you to move about the world feeling more grounded and connected to yourself and others. At Relationships Matter Austin, we have trained and experienced trauma therapists to guide you on a path from anxiety and depression towards healing and a more balanced nervous system.
Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in Austin, Texas. With Carlene’s training in mindfulness, she can help you learn to regulate your nervous system and experience more balance and peace in your life. To schedule your appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling Page.