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Ease Your Nervous System

May 03, 2021

There are two major steps to becoming relaxed:

Step 1: Awareness

You can't become relaxed if you don't know you're stressed. You have to build awareness of when the tinglings of stress begin so that you can become curious and discover why it is you're body, mind, emotions are responding by creating the sensations of stress.

Stress sensations come in many forms. Here are a few examples:

1. Angry - when you impatiently snap back at people, feel rageful when things don't go as planned, aggressively try to make things happen 
2. Depressive - when you feel overwhelmed at life's unexpected turns, when you no longer try because your passion is gone, or when you've stopped caring
3. Anxious - when you really don't feel there's time for anything and you're literally running, speeding, talking fast, expecting people to move out of your way, your business is more important.

If any of these describe you, you aren't alone. We have all experienced every one of these sensations at some point. The key is: are you able to come back to your sage center or are these sensations dictating your behavior?

Building awareness of how you react is key to keeping emotionally, mentally, and physically balanced.

Step 2: Activate Rest and Digest

Our nervous system is built to withstand frustration, depression, anxiety. When we feel them intensely our sympathetic nervous system triggers our fight-flight-freeze response and alerts us to possible danger. Our parasympathetic nervous system plays the role of calming us down after we realize we're out of danger. 

"Danger" these days aren't bear attacks. They're confrontations with people we find difficult. They're mounting bills that haven't been paid. They're troublesome conversations with teenagers you want to say "I love you" to but it comes out all wrong. These are modern-day bears.

And if we haven't built awareness of our stressors, and we are keeping ourselves in a definitive state of stress, our parasympathetic nervous system is not activated and we can't move into "rest and digest" or "tend and befriend." 

The long-term effects of this are debilitating and cause a myriad of health issues. But we can help ourselves.

We have the power to activate the vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic nervous system, and get ourselves back into regulation, back into rest/digest, tend/befriend. 

Here's how to activate it:

1. Listen - Begin to listen to the signs of your own irritation, depression, anxiety when it begins as if you were helping a friend. Take notes.

  • where do you feel it physically?
  • what thoughts are moving in your mind?
  • what emotions are you feeling?

This will help you get better and better at sensing and interpreting it - and your sympathetic nervous system will be less reactive to it.

2. Space/Time - give yourself space and time by simply pausing, perhaps telling the person(s) you're with that you'll get back to them.  Start breathing:

  • place the tongue to the roof of the mouth, the tip touching the gumline behind the top row of teeth
  • breathe, letting the belly rise and fall
  • slow breath in, slower out

3. Touch Base - get connected with people you love and who are doing the same techniques for preventative care.

This is another great way to activate the ventral vagal nerve network which runs from the diaphragm to the brain stem. It's activated through smiles, eye contact, and actions like breathing. This sends messages of relaxation to the brain. But it also deeply affects our prefrontal cortex, triggering clear thinking and the ability to process, which also helps resolve stress.

Building awareness gives us the ability to know when we need good breathing practices to ground ourselves, and good people to share these experiences with as we find ourselves living more and more in balance and less and less a victim of our stress.

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