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How To Calm Your Nervous System In Tense Situations


Life sometimes puts us in situations that are tense, evocative and can make us react in ways we wouldn’t normally. Our nervous system is a complicated network that exists in the body that is designed to spike adrenaline and comes from a history of survival. Though we are rarely in situations that are life and death, we still may feel a physical “fight or flight” response. This can cause some people to feel overwhelmed with emotion and behave irrationally, and make others shut down and unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Though calming yourself down may be the last thing that you want to do if you’re experiencing heightened emotions, it can help you diffuse the situation and help you think about things from a rational perspective. Finding ways to calm down your nervous system in tense situations can help you approach conflict and other high-stakes situations from a stable place.

If you struggle to control your temper, or have trouble during moments of conflict, getting advice from others can be helpful. This can also be true if there are certain situations in your life that are causing you to be stressed. You’re not alone. BetterHelp has a variety of articles available that cover how certain people choose to handle difficult circumstances that can relate to what you’re going through.

Breathing Exercises

Connecting to your breath is one of the simplest and fastest ways to calm down your nervous system. A simple way to do this is to take a moment to slow down your breathing by inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Not only can this help you feel more relaxed, but it can also help to relax your body and thought processes to better handle a tense situation. You can also try counting your breaths, or breathing in through the nose and allowing yourself to exhale with sound as a way to release tension from the body.

Another way to calm down breathing is to cover up one nostril, inhale and exhale, and then alternate. This can be especially effective for people who experience feelings of panic or anxiety when confronted with a stressful situation.

Taking A Break

Sometimes the best way to calm down from a situation that’s causing stress on the body is to take a break. This could be as simple as asking to take a pause in the conversation, or taking a moment to go for a short walk outside. This brief reprieve can give you time to calm down your nervous system and recollect with your own thoughts and emotions. For people who experience overwhelming anger, this is often the best way to return to a more collected headspace.

This can also be helpful for people who are involved in interpersonal conflict. By asking the person that you’re working through issues with for a break, you can help yourself reconnect with what you’re hoping to gain from the conversation. Though it can be tempting to stay in heated moments to try and work through things, doing so when emotions are running high can make matters worse. Try to keep a gauge of your own physiological responses when you approach conflict in order to best know when a little time is needed.

When asking your partner or loved one for more time to process the situation, try your best to do so in a non-avoidant way. Let them know that you need time to assess the conversation appropriately, and give them an estimate on when you’ll be ready to come back to the topic. It’s important to try to handle conflict in ways that will protect both you and your loved one.

Find Ways To Relax On Your Own

Prevention is one of the best ways to maintain a calm nervous system, even in times of stress. You can do this by not letting your stress levels get too high on a day to day basis. By finding ways to relax in your weekly routine, you give your nervous system a break. Doing so increases your chances of approaching tense situations with more rational thought processes. Though you may be tempted to curl up on the couch with your favorite show as a way to relax, it’s best to find an activity that will promote mindfulness. Everyone has different ways of approaching relaxation. Some people meditate, others like to read. The important thing is to find something that will work for you.

Some of the best ways to calm down your nervous system include activating your body with exercise, even if done gently. Simply going for a walk in nature can help you take time to unwind, relax your breathing, and give yourself time to process the stress that may be affecting your life. For some people, a brisk jog or attending an exercise class can help get their blood pumping and make them feel more connected to their breath and body. Taking time out of your schedule to move your body is a great way to find some peace in the stress of everyday life.

If exercise isn’t really your thing, or it doesn’t feel like it does enough to calm your nervous system, there are plenty of other ways to unwind. Doing reflective activities like journaling can help you get your thoughts and feelings out without involving anyone else. You can also try other activities like playing music, reading or taking a long warm bubble bath.

Make Your Mental Health A Priority

Though you may not always have the time or space to practice these calming exercises, doing them as much as you can help you approach tense situations practically. By making your mental health and wellbeing a priority, you can continue to work through stress in a productive way. Doing so can help you tackle challenges as they come, and give you better insight on who you are and how you approach difficulties in your life.

We can’t control others, or what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to it. If you take initiative and find ways to calm your nervous system, there’s nothing you can’t handle.

About the author                              

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.