Flipping the switch on stress (DW#680)

Let us talk some more about how our breathing is related to our stress levels.

As you may know, our nervous systems have two parts: the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS) and thesympathetic nervous system(SNS). The parasympathetic system takes care of the "rest and digest" side of things while the sympathetic system takes care of "fight or flight" stuff. In short, we have the relaxation response and the stress response.

We obviously need both and each have an important role to play in our functioning and wellbeing.

Here is the problem though: modern life has thrown us into a near-constant state of arousal and hypervigilance and for most of us, our sympathetic nervous system works overtime, leading to all stress, dysfunction and burnout. In other words, our PNS and SNS become unbalanced, one working overtime and other lying dormant.

How can we learn to balance these two for optimal wellbeing?

The fastest and simplest way is to become intentional about breathing.

Try this now:

Take a nice, calm, deep, quiet breath.

Inhale through your nose down into your diaphragm.

Pause gently for a few moments.

Then exhale through your nose for a count that’s slightly longer than your inhale.


And… Repeat one more time.

You have just signalled to your SNS to calm down. You have told your fight or flight system: "We’re good. No need to stress. All systems relax. Put your guard down. You do not need to be hypervigilant right now. There is no danger. You can use energy to repair and to rebuild."

You have just flipped the switch from stress to relaxation.


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