By Shauna Summers
The holidays are upon us and there is so much to do and a shrinking amount of time to do it in! Does this sound familiar? Instead of letting your anxiety take over, activate your parasympathetic nervous system instead!
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body. People can learn to trigger their parasympathetic nervous system to immediately reduce their sense of anxiety and stress. This also lifts their mood, strengthens their immune system, and reduces their blood pressure. What are some quick ways to do this you ask?
Breathing exercises are very effective, here is an easy one: Close your eyes and BREATHE IN (5 Mississippi’s), HOLD (5 Mississippi’s), BREATHE OUT (5 Mississippi’s), and don’t breathe in (5 Mississippi’s); and do this 5 - 10 times: If 5 is too long, start with 3 Mississippi’s. This is enough time to deactivate your sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (calm). By activating your parasympathetic nervous system, your body will move from feeling anxious to feeling more and more calm.
There are other quick ways to activate your parasympathetic nervous system besides various slow breathing techniques. 1. You can gently touch your lips. This works because parasympathetic fibers are spread throughout our lips. Just take one or two fingers and lightly run them over your lips to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. 2. Be mindful and don’t multitask. Slowing down is the goal. Being intentional in the present moment helps us remain calm instead of getting caught up in the frenzy of “too much to do and not enough time.” 3. Find your Happy Place. Use visualization and imagery by picturing yourself in a peaceful place that you love. It could be the ocean at sunset, sitting by a creek, a field of wildflowers or anyplace you enjoy and feel relaxed in. Use all of your senses. Feel the wind on your skin, smell the flowers, and hear the sounds of the creek. Within a few minutes, you will feel more relaxed.