5 Ways to Create Safety & Calm in Nervous System
- Temperature Change
One powerful technique to reset your nervous system is through temperature change. Cold water immersion activates the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to major organs. This activation signals a relaxation response, resetting your abdominal organs to a resting state and creating feelings of well-being. While cold plunges are all the rage, you can also splash your face with cold water, dunk your face in a bowl of ice water, put a bag of frozen veggies on the back of your neck, or hold ice cubes or rub them on your wrist. It might not always be pleasant, but it works.
Coldwater immersion increases the production of mood-elevating hormones and neurotransmitters like beta-endorphins, noradrenaline, and dopamine, which can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s also a form of mindfulness and grounding, as it’s challenging to have spiraling thoughts when you’re in the freezing water.
- Grounding, Orienting, and Earthing
Grounding is a form of mindfulness that brings you back to the present moment and into your body. One technique is body scanning, where you lay on the floor and mindfully focus on different senses: touch (massage), smell (essential oils), taste (spicy foods), hear (music), and see (colors).
- Soothing Music
Listening to calming music can lead to a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. This is likely because of the connection between the ears, vagus nerve, and the parasympathetic nervous system. Humming can be even more effective, as it activates the vagus nerve directly, slows your heart rate, and promotes relaxation. Next time you’re feeling anxious, try humming and notice the calming effect.
- Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets have a calming effect on your nervous system, similar to why babies calm down when they’re swaddled. The gentle pressure on your body activates your parasympathetic nervous system, reducing your heart rate during stressful moments. Weighted blankets also support proprioception, your “sixth sense” related to somatic awareness, by providing a physical boundary that increases your awareness of your surroundings. This deep pressure stimulation can reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
Give yourself a hug by placing your hands on opposite shoulders and crossing your arms in front of you. Apply gentle pressure to your shoulders, moving down your biceps slowly until you reach your elbows. Repeat this process for a comforting self-hug.
If you’re seeking more resources to bring your nervous system back to a state of safety and calm, check out the regulation resources guide in the episode show notes.
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