Modern life can be busy, filled with many pressures and expectations.
Living from a place of 'calm' can help us manage well and maintain a slow, mindful steadiness amidst the "haste" of life.
Calm is also about resilience and flexibility, an ability to return to that place when we feel thrown off course.
In writing that, I recall the Desiderata line -
Here are some simple and practical ways that can help you engage the 'calm response' right now.
Kind Eyes Visualisation
A gentle and mindful practice with Dianne Poole Heller; where we can move out of the busy mind and into the restful presence of "kind eyes".
See how tuning in to the memory of a loved one's compassionate gaze feels for you?
Harvard trained Dr Andrew Weill, describes this technique as a 'natural tranquilliser for the nervous system' - physiologically shown to help reduce tension by signalling the parasympathetic nervous system.
It's a simple as following his steps 4-7-8 breathing. It can be helpful to practice this one if you're having trouble sleeping, or when you're feeling anxious.
Tactile Self Regulating
This is a simple exercise you can do yourself.
When we talk about stress; there is both helpful and unhelpful stress.
If you're in a dangerous situation, the automatic stress response in the brain activates to do whatever is needed for our survival. This may look like getting you out of danger and to safety (hyper-aroused), or to 'shut down' psychologically to separate from experience (hypo-aroused), again a survival mechanism.
You may have heard of the fight, flight, freeze, fawn response? This is the sympathetic nervous system in action.
Unhelpful stress on the other hand is to feel these sorts of feelings and tensions, numbness, shut down and intense fear in the absence of current threat. Where you may observe in yourself different sensations, tightness in your chest, shoulders freezing up - your neck tightening, breathing becomes shallow, there is sensitivity to noise and changes in the environment, you realise you're holding on tightly, heart begins to race, back pain, grinding teeth, dry mouth etc, it may also feel like fatigue, light headed, "spacey", zoned out, for some it even feels like time has slowed down and a feeling of disassociation, no longer being in the room, or in their body.
It can be very unsettling and distressing.
Can you recall when you felt stress take over?
What are the ways it shows up for you?
How do you feel in those moments?
To connect with the sensation, I invite you to place your hand gently on your heart, or your cheek, or maybe on the back of your neck - wherever it feels soothing and comfortable for you. You could also cup hand one within the other, or place your palms facing upward, resting on your lap.
Once you are comfortable, breathe, and say
"(Your name), this shall pass" ... "(Your name), this shall pass"
It can be said audibly or silently,
but the point is to repeat till you notice the tension begin to subside.
This technique has a way of bringing our adult self in to support any part that's feeling fearful or unsure, that has a need for assurance and protection - and can have the effect of feeling both permission to, and safeness to let go of tension.
Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy; as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.
There are many ways to engage this parasympathetic response. For some people talking to someone about their experience helps them return to balance, and feel safe again, or it may be walking in nature, playing with a pet, making art, creating or listening to music, journalling, the soothing touch of a loved one or trusted friend or exercise. For some people this may look like centering prayer - and form part of a regular spiritual practice.
It may be a combination of many things.
What do you find soothes you and reduces tension?
Everyone is different, I guess what is most important is to find what practices soothe and nourish you, and finding ways to incorporate them into your life, so when the stress response is triggered, you are more able to draw on them.
It may help to share what you discover with a trusted friend.
With all this said, sometimes stress can become so overwhelming, and try as we may, these techniques are still not enough to feel regulated and back on track.
Maybe the tank is empty and needs refilling.
If you are reading this and it feels like overwhelm has been part of your life - you may wish to consider neurofeedback.
NeurOptimal is a form of dynamical neurofeedback that is gentle and requires no effort on your part, just an openness and willingness to engage in the process of personal transformation.
Your central nervous system does the rest.
If you long to feel less reactive, more calm and spacious, I invite you to get in touch for a confidential conversation.