Short Cut to Calm

323Feeling stressed out and worried can be exhausting. There’s the trying to get everything done, and that’s tiring enough. Then there’s the extra energy that it takes to worry, and the tension caused by stress. All that leaves us even more drained.

When we’re stressed and spinning, it can help to short-circuit the action. Maybe we started off our day with something that caused a cascading domino effect of stress. Maybe it’s been intense for days or weeks, or even months. Whatever the case, when you catch yourself in stressed-out mode, or you notice that mind has sped off on a track of worrying, a key to returning to calm is to stop that action. Our breath can be used as a short cut back to calm. In fact, our breath can be our best friend to both short-circuit the stress cycle and also create a calming cycle in the body.

The fight or flight response is the body’s response to stress, so we’re ready to run or fight even though we’re probably sitting in a chair. Adrenaline and other stress hormones course through our bodies, and that would be fine if we were about to run from an attacking sabre-toothed tiger. But if we’re just going through our day in that heightened mode, we’re using far more energy than we need to, and overtime, are causing our body’s wear and tear, and even damage.

In contrast, slow deep breathing 8-10 times activates the vagus nerve. We’re learning now that the vagus nerve, which has almost as many nerve channels as the spinal cord itself, activates a kind of relaxation response in the body. With 8-10 slower, deeper breaths, the vagus nerve gives your body the signal that all is safe, that there is no immediate danger. The body begins to respond with a slower heart rate, it slows the flow of stress hormones, and the bio-chemistry of relaxation takes over.

You can short-circuit the stress cycle and feel calmer by stopping to take 10 slow, deep breaths. You can bring yourself from stressed out and worried to calmer, more present, and more energized. Next time you notice you’re feeling stressed, remember this short cut to calm. Do yourself a favour, and just stop for the few moments it takes to breathe slowly 10 times. You’ll notice the difference.

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