3 Steps to Calm an Anxious Brain – Step 3
Building a sense of connection and safety
Our nervous systems respond to cues of connection and safety. It turns out that oxytocin is not only released by physical connection, but also by thinking about someone who loves and cares about us. The video below builds on Step 2 to deepen the sense of connection and safety in our bodies. This sense of connection and safety enhances the calming effects on the nervous system. Patients and clients often report a sense of relief or of feeling nurtured and cared for when doing this step.
How to Use The 3 Steps Most Effectively
The video below walks you through the entire sequence. There is also an audio recording that you can download and listen to. In the video I am doing Step 2 – Coherent Breathing – for just a short period of time. It is best to start with doing Coherent breathing for 3-5 minutes a few times a day. In the audio recording, I do the coherent breathing technique for 4 minutes.
This 3-step process certainly can help to calm you down when anxiety is high. But the place I see most people struggle with these and other exercises, is that they only use them when they are anxious. Far more effective is practicing these exercises in short sessions, multiple times daily, to increase the flexibility in your nervous system and the capacity for your system to manage challenging situations with less emotional reactivity.
I liken this to working out at the gym. You don’t wait to go to the gym until you have something heavy to pick up. You work out at the gym so that when something heavy needs to be picked up you are ready.
It is the same thing here, the more you practice when the challenges are low, the more your nervous system learns what to do and and the more capacity you build for being able to regulate your emotions when the challenges are high.
The other thing to realize is that this is not like flipping a light switch. Many people with anxiety have struggled with it for decades. Changing deeply embedded neural pathways and patterns takes patience and progress may be incremental. But with repeated and directed attention, you can rewire your brain and live with greater peace and ease.