Stress. Stress. Stress. In the morning. At lunchtime. In the evening. At work. In personal life. It catches up with us and takes away the energy we so desperately need to focus on the activities that chase us in time.
From The Willpower Instinct, we can learn that in research conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association), it was found that the most commonly used strategies for coping with stress are highly ineffective (!). Only 16% of people were able to use strategies that actually helped them reduce stress. Another study showed that women are more prone to eating chocolate when they feel anxious or disappointed. However, the only thing that changes after using this strategy is an increase in feelings of guilt.
So let’s get started and begin with where stress originates. In our brain. Using various methods, we can train our mind to reduce stress when we need to. Of course, not everyone has a lot of time for training and various psychological sessions. Soooooo. That’s clear. We need something easy, but backed by research. If your brain doesn’t want to play fair, neither will we 😀 So how do we do it? Well, through treachery. It’s time to stop our brain’s responses to stress and use the physiology of our body to “defuse” and calm it. So let’s play some neurological baseball!
Tighten your facial muscles and then relax them Communication between your brain and your body is bidirectional. So, if you can’t get your brain to calm your body, use your body to calm your brain. Gray matter in the brain “likes to get stressed,” and your muscles subsequently contract. Then your tense muscles send a signal back to your brain to confirm that you are indeed stressed. We need to break this cycle.
Tighten your facial muscles and then relax them. Now your body will send a message to your brain: “I am no longer stressed, and neither do you have to be.” Alex Kort claims in his book, “To remind your brain to release muscle tension, sometimes clenching them first helps. Take a deep breath and stretch the tense muscles for a few minutes. After a few minutes, exhale and relax. The most important thing is to relax your facial muscles because they have the greatest impact on emotions. However, relaxing your hands, back, and stomach is also important.”
If your partner is running around you and you don’t feel like pretending you’re constipated right now 😀, ask them to give you a massage. This also works. It will relieve your stress and bring you closer together 😉
What if tightening and releasing our facial muscles doesn’t help? Move on to step 2.
Slow down and take deep breaths. The vagus nerve, also known as the wandering nerve, is one of the key emotional pathways in your body. This nerve sends signals down to your heart and back up to your brain, playing a crucial role in regulating the fight-or-flight response. Direct stimulation of the vagus nerve could solve all our major problems! The only problem is that it requires a scalpel and a lot of time studying medicine. So let’s stick to “vagal maneuvers” for now 😀 How we breathe significantly affects how the vagus nerve functions. Essentially, it is one of the fastest ways to change how we currently feel.
Breathing influences the brain through signals sent by the vagus nerve. It is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is controlled by the fight-or-flight instinct. So slow down, take deep breaths, and that should calm you down.
Helpful exercise: Slowly inhale through your nose while counting to 6 or even 8. Then pause for a few seconds if you feel fully inflated, and then exhale slowly through your nose while counting to 6 or 8.
A side note: Need the opposite effect? More energy? Breathe quickly. Fast breathing deactivates the parasympathetic and activates the sympathetic nervous system. If you’re anxious or frightened, breathe quickly. But it’s also true that fast breathing will make you more aware of your emotions. This can make you more nervous – but also more excited and fired up. Sometimes that’s fine. Try short and shallow breathing for 20-30 seconds.
Still nothing? Let’s move on to trick number 3. Head in the sink anddddddd……
3.Splash your face with cold water. Cold water on your face also “wakes up” your vagus nerve and slows down your pulse. Your brain senses that your pulse is dropping and says, “Great, we don’t have to stress anymore!” (Oh, our naive brain :D)
If you’re still stressed, neuroscience offers one more trick.
4.Turn on some music and dance a little 🙂
Does music affect how you feel? Fight bad mood by listening to music you love. Does it sound too simple? Keep reading. Your favorite song puts your limbic system areas in order, including the hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex, and nucleus accumbens. Creating music has an even stronger effect. And no, you don’t have to dance. 🙂 But it’s a little bonus to it 😉
So, your brain is totally crazy and peaceful that you could wave in front of Gandhi. So let’s summarize again:
Contract and relax your facial muscles (If you use Botox, simply skip to the next tip ;-)) Slow down and breathe deeply (Paper boats in the bathtub can be good helpers with this exercise). Splash your face with cold water (Wakes you up, calms you down, and also washes a cup in the sink. That’s efficiency!) Listen to music and dance. (If it happens to you on the street, you may dance around passersby 😉 Although the man in the video certainly deserves a bigger audience 😀 ).