When life throws us challenges, we experience trauma or a stressful event; our natural response is to go into fight-or-flight mode. This is a normal, automatic response to a perceived danger. But when the threat has passed, it’s essential to learn how to calm your nervous system and release the tension and anxiety that can linger in the aftermath.
One of the most powerful tools for calming the nervous system is breathing. Breathwork has been used in various forms for centuries to help people manage stress, anxiety, and trauma. It’s an effective and natural way to reset your body and mind.
We take shallow, rapid breaths when our bodies are in fight-or-flight mode. This type of breathing is known as sympathetic breathing, and it’s the body’s way of preparing us to fight or run away. But when the danger has passed, this type of breathing can increase anxiety and make it more difficult to relax.
On the other hand, deep, slow breaths can help to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for calming the body and restoring balance. Deep, slow breaths can help to trigger the body’s relaxation response, which is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response.
The key to using breathing to calm the nervous system is to focus on the breath. Focusing on our breath brings us into the present moment and helps us become aware of our body and mind. This awareness helps us relax, as it allows us to recognize what is happening and let go of any tension or fear we may be holding onto.
Breathing can also help to release the emotions that may be stored in our body from the traumatic event. When we take a few deep, slow breaths, we can help to release the tension and stress that may have built up in our bodies. This type of breathing can also help release emotions associated with the trauma, allowing us to move through the experience more quickly.
Breathing can also help to regulate the body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in response to stress. When we take deep, slow breaths, we can help to lower our cortisol levels and restore balance in the body. This can help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Try this simple breathing exercise:
Make your exhales longer than your inhales. For example, if you breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for a count of 8 seconds. Longer exhales than inhales will turn on the “rest and relaxation” functions in the parasympathetic system. Conversely, longer inhales than exhales energize the system. This is an exercise used by Navy Seals to prepare for or calm down from a battle. Take 3 or 4 long exhales. You should feel your body relax immediately, with shoulders dropping and tension releasing. You might even yawn, which is a good sign too.
Breathing is a powerful tool for calming the nervous system and helping manage trauma’s effects. It can help to reduce stress, release emotions, and regulate cortisol levels. When we focus on our breath and take a few slow, deep breaths, we can help to activate the body’s relaxation response and restore balance.
If you want help calming the body and brain due to worry, fear, stress, or panic, contact Ron Huxley today. Click here to schedule an appointment!