Our relationships and connections with others tend to suffer when we’re feeling anxious.  Yet ironically, it’s our relationships and connections that play a key role in our overall well-being.

Unfortunately, when anxiety escalates, we’re unable to think straight and react in the heat of the moment.  Which does not bode well for maintaining close and meaningful relationships with others.

But the good news is we can control our emotions and reactions and keep our relationships strong.

So, how can we get control of anxiety in any given moment and interact with others authentically rather than from an anxious state?

Whenever we feel attacked, personally insulted, threatened, or fearful, our sympathetic nervous system takes over and we experience what’s known as a “fight-flight-freeze” reaction.  Simply put, the reasoning part of our brains shuts down and we’re unable to respond rationally in the heat of the moment.

On the other hand, our parasympathetic nervous system, informally referred to as the rest and digest system, inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.

Ideally, both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems would be in balance.  When, however, we experience chronic stress, not uncommon particularly during this global pandemic, the body spends too much time in “fight or flight” mode, and very little in “rest and digest.”

To gain control of anxiety for calmer, more fulfilling connection in your relationships, start by spending more time in “rest and digest” mode.  The more we practice activating our rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system, the more we’ll have it when we need it most.  Here are 5 things to practice routinely:

  1.       Deep breathing.  You might try these out (I’ve found Alternate Nostril Breathing particularly effective);
  2.       Meditation;
  3.       Regular exercise or yoga;
  4.       Screen time breaks.  To learn more, check out this article.
  5.       Gently running your finger over your lips (haven’t tried this one yet…)

You can bet I’ll be doing one or more of these daily – these are stressful times – and I invite you to join me!

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