Self care practices to calm your mind and nervous system
When we are anxious or stressed, we tend to neglect the very thing that can help us cope better and regain our equilibrium – our self care practices.
Whether that is going to bed early, having nutritious meals, meditating, doing yoga or relaxing in a bubble bath – these seem to fall by the wayside whenever stress and anxiety enters the picture.
During times like these, we are operating in fight or flight mode and our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. We might feel restless, our thoughts might be racing, we worry, we struggle to concentrate, we’re irritable, and fatigued.
Anxiety is uncomfortable and we often want immediate relief – something we might find in food, a glass of wine, scrolling through social media or shopping. Unfortunately, despite taking the edge off for a little while, these things only tend to exacerbate anxiety in the long run.
What would be more helpful to us, is to have healthy – but effective – ways to calm our minds and down regulate our sympathetic nervous system.
Here are THREE self care practices that will decrease anxiety and make you feel calmer within minutes:
Slow, deep breathing
Taking deep, slow breaths is one of the quickest ways to calm your nervous system down. When you breathe deeply, your parasympathetic nervous system is activated, creating a feeling of calmness and relaxation in your mind and body.
Inhale deeply through your nostrils and direct your breathe towards your belly.
Exhale slowly through your nostrils while your belly deflates back towards your spine. Repeat 10 times.
2. Read a few pages
A study by the University of Sussex found that reading for as little as 6 minutes, can reduce your anxiety by 68%! That’s more than listening to music or going for a walk.
Reading calms you down by actively engaging your imagination, and helping to get you out of your anxious mind. It also has a relaxing effect on your body, by lowering you heart rate and easing tension in your muscles.
3. Write down your thoughts
Sometimes, the best way to soothe anxious feelings is to just get them out on paper. This is supported by studies that found that journaling helps to reduce worry and can be a helpful tool for dealing with anxiety or overthinking. Through writing, we are not only acknowledging our feelings and fears, but it also helps us to work through them.
In your journal or on a piece of paper, answer the following questions:
- What am I feeling right now? (E.g. I am feeling nervous/on edge/unable to stop thinking)
- What am I concerned about (E.g not finishing my assignment on time)
- What am I worried will happen? (E.g. that I will fail. That people will think I’m not capable)
These self care practices can be done in less than 10 minutes – perfect to fit into any “gap moments” during your day.