As adults, sometimes we need to give our grown ass selves a time out.
There are moments throughout the day when we become stressed and emotionally activated. Our sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response, is operating in high gear.
See, what took me a long time to understand was that this fight or flight response doesn’t just happen when presented with a conflict situation.
It can become activated when we’re checking tasks off our to do lists, when we’re at a crowded grocery store, or any other potentially stressful environment.
As children, we learned that certain situations are unsafe – emotionally, physically, socially.
And as adults, anything that could now potentially trip that wire that tells us there is imminent danger, activates that sympathetic nervous system.
While we are working on healing and releasing our past traumas, the default setting in your body may still be set to a highly activated fight, flight, freeze response.
When I say time out, I don’t mean how many of us think of time outs as punishment for doing something wrong or shameful.
What I mean is we need to take a breather to recalibrate our nervous system to reenter that rest and digest phase – which is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system.
Here’s some of the best ways to give yourself a little time out treat throughout your day to destress your vibes:
✅ 1. Get into nature – or just go outside for some fresh air
✨Research done by Dr. Rachel Kaplan (as well as many others) has been shown that spending time in nature counteracts the fight/flight response and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps us to feel calm and reduce anxiety/stress
✅ 2. Take a meditation break
✨If you want to kill two birds with one stone (except don’t because birds are weird angels) add in some breathing exercises to super boost that vagus nerve – the key element of the PNS.
✨Meditation and breathing combined allows balancing of the nervous system.
✨The PNS and SNS both have a role to play, and the solution isn’t the elimination of one and exaltation of the other. As with most things, the key here is balance.
✨Brain scans of people who practice regular meditation have shown decreases in the size of brain regions critical to the fight/flight response – such as the amygdala. This leads to reduced emotional reactivity to stressful stimuli and anxiety-inducing situations.
✅ 3. Repetitive chanting
✨When we chant, the movement of facial muscles in the head and neck stimulate the nerves they are connected to that supply the rest and digest (PNS) system.
✨The stimulation of the larynx nerve in the throat are a branch of the vagus nerve which when stimulated, activates the PNS relaxation and slows stress response.
✨This also works with humming or singing if chanting feels too out there for you. Though you could always chant “I will not punch anyone today” to make it a little more fun.
✅ 4. Practice Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong
✨This mindful movement practices strengthen the body’s relaxation response.
✨For those of us who are highly emotionally activated, strengthening the PNS response helps us to become more balanced.
✅ 5. Find a loved one or beloved pet for a cuddle session
✨This is a powerful one! With extended hugging or cuddling, the activation of the PNS combined with feelings of love and gratitude, and the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin contributes to feeling more relaxed and content.
✨The physical touch activates the pressure receptors in our skin and signals the vagus nerve to activate.
I don’t know about you, but these are exactly the kind of time outs I needed as a kid.
TLDR; Time outs save lives. You’re welcome.
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