Calm Down Quickly with a Science-based Mantra

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When we feel anxious, our nervous system is protecting us - sometimes over-protecting us - from a perceived threat. We are in fight-flight mode, ready to run from the situation or stand up to it. Our ancient ancestors needed to mobilise their systems quickly to flee from or fight predators, however in modern times, the same system of protection is triggered by thoughts alone. "Whenever you inhale, you turn on the sympathetic nervous system (fight-flight) slightly. And when you exhale, the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-digest) half turns on, activating your vagus nerve in order to slow things down." Robert Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers No matter where we are, we always have our breath. If we can take our attention to our breathing and slow it down, we have a chance to calm the nervous system reasonably quickly. Making the exhalation slightly longer than the inhalation helps tip the balance away from fight-flight and towards rest-digest. Here is simple mantra to repeat to yourself in order to anchor yourself to your breath and help coax your system to get parasympathetic:

What You'll Need

  • Your awareness
  • Your breath

What You'll Do

  • As you inhale, say "Inhale calm" to yourself. (3 syllables)
  • As you exhale, say "Exhale relax" to yourself. (4 syllables)

Tips & Warnings

  • I made a short audio guide you through a short breathing exploration based on this tip:
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