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  • Britta Van Dun

Beyond Breath

Resourcing the Nervous System

When we're triggered and/or processing a high level of stress or emotion, it's incredibly helpful to shift our awareness from our thoughts to our physiology. By focusing on the breath and then the sensations of the body, we avoid spiraling out mentally and we let the body know that we are registering its response signals. As the signals are received, the body can re-regulate from a stressed to a relaxed state. Malingering in the mind usually just reinforces tension patterns.


Beyond noticing the breath and the physiology, there are a number of simple practices that we can engage when we are activated that will invite the parasympathetic (rest & digest) aspect of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to come online and rebalance from a sympathetic state (flight, fight, freeze, appease or fawn). Taking just a few minutes to resource the ANS can make a profound difference in our sense of well-being, our resilience and our capacity to navigate challenging situations. A calm body = a calm mind. A calm mind = a clear mind - more capable of making informed decisions.


The techniques offered here are simple to do and only take about 2 minutes each. The trick is utilizing the techniques when you are triggered and in need of support.


When we are flooded, overwhelmed or wound up, the sympathetic branch of the ANS takes over and our adrenalin and cortisol levels can spike. Bringing with it a whole host of symptoms like shortness of breath, changes in heart rhythm, increased perspiration, and difficulty concentrating. When we are in a stressed state,* the job of the body is to protect itself. In order to effectively protect itself, the sympathetic symptoms and sensations - and accompanying thoughts - enter a self-perpetuating loop.


I have a bunch of "tells" when I enter a stress loop. My left shoulder gets tight, thoughts begin to spiral, my third-eye feels squeezed, my whole body scrunches upwards rather than resting downwards. I'm suddenly "starving" and need a snack, preferably sweets. The very last thing that I want to do is chill out.


Today, when I get cues that I'm outta balance, I PAUSE whatever I'm doing and turn awareness to the sensations in the body. I take a few gentle low-belly breaths. I invite any muscular bracing or contraction to soften and relax. I imagine the thoughts and tension dissolving into to the field around me, 360 degrees. All of this so that I may fully enter the Present moment again. If that's not enough to quiet wayward thoughts and re-regulate the ANS, I engage the techniques highlighted in the short video below. The techniques have really helped me. I hope they help you too.


To start, please find a comfortable seat with your feet resting flat on the ground, the spine upright and supported:



Please reach out with any questions or concerns - I'd love to hear from you. xx B



*If you are stressed because you are in danger, please get out of harms way! Go to a safe place and reach out to a trusted, supportive person who can help you. If it's an emergency, please call 911.



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