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Strategies to Calm Down

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the “Emergency Eject” system your amygdala engages to start your flight, fight, or freeze survival system in times of crisis. When the SNS is activated, not only are you not yourself, you’re really not a self at all, you’re a reactive, unthinking animal in survival mode. Here are some ways we can reset.


Before a Crisis

  • Regular exercise strengthens the SNS, specifically light cardio.
  • Regular mindfulness and meditation strengthens the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (MPC). This part of the brain lights up like a laser show when you shove a shaman or monk into a brain scanner, it is also the conscious part of the brain that has the most interaction with the subconscious part of the brain, the amygdala specifically.
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition, avoid stimulants, add probiotics, and eat a balanced diet.
  • Create a Crisis Plan

During a Crisis

  • Breathe work:
    • Count and take 10 deep breaths.
    • A deep sigh
  • Grounding:
    • Literally touch the ground. Playing with soil, then inhaling the microbe Mycobacterium vaccae can increase serotonin and decrease anxiety for up to 3 weeks.
    • Something warm and soft.
    • Place your hand on your heart and breathe gently.
    • 5-4-3-2-1, list 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
    • Body Scan Meditation
  • Mindfulness
    • Practice Emotional Literacy
    • 3 Second Rule, your first thought is often a reaction tied to survival and / or trauma. Allow yourself to simply feel and think what you feel and think for 3 whole seconds, then decide what your next thought will be. This thought represents how you’ve grown, what you’ve learned, or how you see your best self.
    • Imagery, think of pleasing, calming things or imagine your current feeling as a shape and color in your mind, then try to turn it into a small white ball.
    • Raisin Exercise
    • Meditation
  • Touching things
    • Hugs for that oxytocin.
    • Soft, warm things
    • Lips. Rub two fingers gently back and forth on your lips.
  • Manipulate the Vagus Nerve
    • Cold
      • Put your tongue in cold water
      • Put a cold compress on your chest or face
      • Splash cold water on your face or take a cold shower
    • Singing or humming,making a “vooooo” or “ohm” sound
    • Valsalva Maneuver, exhale against a closed airway by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out increasing the pressure inside of your chest cavity.
    • Prosody, speaking slowly, rhythmically and melodically as if you’re soothing a young child or pet.
    • Big belly laughter
    • Massage the carotid sinus on the sides of your neck
    • Gargle
  • Shift your posture to the opposite of how you currently are or feel, try the Superman pose.
  • Listen to calm music.

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