I have a friend that’s terrified of spiders.

In fact the other night, she dove headfirst into the back seat of my car to get out of the path of a tiny, 8-legged creature that was crawling up the passenger-side window. We laughed pretty hard about it afterwards but in the moment, her fight or flight response was in high gear.

In these moments, emotions and knee jerk reactions can take center stage. And sometimes, a string of these fight or flight scenarios can make it seem like we’re living in a state of constant “freak out.”

The wonderful truth is that we don’t have to let these fleeting emotions define us; we can make conscious decisions to live more freely. As Danielle LaPorte reminds us, “How do you want to feel?”

I try and make this part of my to-do list and inform which decisions I make, or at least the ones I have control over. If you want to feel more grounded and relaxed in your life, there are some simple, proven strategies you can invoke.

The 10 tips below help and decrease the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight response.

The best part? They all feel fabulous!

Restorative yoga

This style of yoga is like an exfoliator for stress.

By placing your body in supported poses, restorative yoga helps release deeply held tension and enables the nervous system to come into greater balance.

Try this as you’re winding down at night and even couple with a guided meditation for a more spiritual experience.

Low lights

Light the candles, turn off the overhead lights, and adjust the dimmer switches in your favorite room.

The nervous system is attached to our five senses, and sight can affect our state of mind.  Lower the light and feel the calm wash over you.

Relaxing music

Let another one of the five senses–sound–help create the feelings you desire most.

Scroll through your Spotify, Pandora or YouTube playlists and cue up the music that makes you feel most at peace.

Whether it’s the meditation channel, classical piano, or acoustic covers of the songs you love, you can use music anywhere at any time to relax and feel grounded.

Smell

Aromatherapy is one of my favorite ways to relax! What’s more luxurious than the smell of oranges, lavender, sea air, or freshly cut grass?

Smells bring up memories and feelings that can immediately transform our mood, and taking in nature’s glorious scents can transport us to a place of happiness.

If you have a yummy travel candle (I love pumpkin spice) or a special mini essential oil, keep it on hand for moments when you want to breathe in the aroma and feel more relaxed.

Taste

In the crisp and cool season of fall, a warm cup of herbal tea is my cozy companion. It’s also a great way to calm the sympathetic nervous system.

Sense the warmth of tea as you’re holding it, taste the aromatic flavors as you sip, and feel the warm fluid wash down the back of your throat and fill your belly.

Savoring the taste of your favorite foods and drinks ushers in feelings of comfort.

Movement

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing and planning. Ever feel stuck there?

A great tool for getting out of your head is getting into your body. When you feel the need to release, dance it out! Moving all those glorious tissues and muscles releases endorphins and stress.

Send messages of happiness to your brain by doing your happy dance.

Dance your prayers

Combine movement and dance with positive affirmations and you get this transformational practice.

Dancing your prayers connects the mind and body and encourages positive self-talk, which can change the brain.

Check out Intensati or 5Rhythms or dance your prayers to your own music, in your own style, and in your own words.

Mantra, meditation and prayer

Whether it’s repeating a simple phrase that empowers you, setting a 10-minute timer and focusing inward, or sending thoughts to a higher power, mantra, meditation and prayer are time tested, soul-soothing techniques.

I use Sounds True as a silent timer and friends enjoy Insight Timer and Meditation Studio.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know how much I adore Tara Brach’s library of work.

Singing

You don’t have to be as talented as my friend Michael James Scott to receive the healing benefits of song.

Get your singing groove on! What songs pump you up? Blast that song in the shower, sing along and note the way it changes your mood. Singing can be a powerful way to release and de-stress.

Nourish

I routinely invoke the wisdom of Tara Brach, who is a guru on spirituality and mindfulness. She came up with the acronym RAIN, which I expand on in a previous blog entry about responding to stress.

The N of RAIN refers to “nourish,” which encourages self-compassion by getting in touch with our inner life. To ease suffering, practice self-care by calling a friend for support, mentally whispering messages of kindness or simply placing your hand on your heart or cheek.

If you’re feeling inspired there are two other techniques for extra credit!

Stay hydrated

Starting your day with a full glass of water and hydrating throughout the day provides support for the nervous system.

If your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is in overdrive, your brain may perceive even the slightest bit of dehydration as a danger, so it further activates the SNS.

Up your water intake and let your brain know everything is working as it should so you can remain calm and centered.

Acupuncture

This Eastern practice can target not only specific muscles and tissues but also entire channels.

Needling certain points in the body (like the ear) can calm the sympathetic nervous system in minutes, and you may feel the effects for days.

By choosing to feel relaxed and centered in your life, you are giving yourself the greatest gift! You may start with one strategy once a week or once a day or try out a combination of many.

To integrate these practices in a weekend of ultimate self-care and relaxation, join me in Leydon, MA! My colleague and I are hosting an immersive yoga retreat called Retreat to Your Root in October. Read about the experience and get details.

I can’t wait for you to begin to see positive changes in your body, mind, and general well-being. Be gentle with yourself. You deserve it. 🙂


Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash