When we feel unsafe or threatened by anything – real or imaginary, our brain responds to the “threat” by making the body go into the Fight or Flight mode. Depending on the magnitude of the perceived threat, you may experience a cold feeling in the pit of your tummy, sweaty hands, hot or cold flushes, a faster heartbeat and a feeling of impending danger.
The first thing you have to realize is that this is our body’s way of protecting itself. When it feels unsafe, it will stop digestion and pump that blood to the extremities to get ready for the fight or the flight – that’s the cold feeling in the tummy and the sweaty palms. It gets the heart to pump more blood, so you have even more energy in the system, which is why your heartbeat rises… and so on.
It’s an evolutionary response to danger – unfortunately our brain cannot make out the difference between a hissing snake and an irritated boss (or an angry wife). All that the brain perceives is a feeling of being threatened and so initiates the fight or flight response to protect the body.
Once the brain feels that the danger has passed, it will bring things back to normal and you feel a sense of ease and all-rightness.
When the danger is not “real” and you know that, but, somehow your brain doesn’t, then you feel anxious and if you are like me, feel stupid for feeling anxious when there is nothing to be anxious about. There are other times, when the best thing to do even in a tough situation is to be able to remain calm. The brain doesn’t get this. There are ways to overrule this response or at least greatly reduce the feelings of threat that the brain feels.
The best way is of course to learn and practice meditation. The practice of meditation actually shrinks the amygdala in the brain – the part that feels the danger and this in time, makes you far more resilient than you could imagine. You gain the ability to overrule the evolutionary response that’s been hardwired into your system. No mean feat!
It is an unfortunate fact that everyone doesn’t meditate – yet… Hopefully, many more will learn in the coming months and years and gain the astounding benefits this simple practice has to offer.
Meanwhile, here are 3 ways you can deal with those unpleasant feelings whether you are a meditator or not. These mind-body hacks are from my study of Craniosacral Therapy, and when I get my clients to do any of these techniques they relax and feel calm within a few minutes.
All 3 will activate the Vagus nerve which is considered to be in charge of the Rest and Digest response of the body (Opposite of the Fight and Flight). Once the Vagus kicks in, pleasant warm sensations will dawn and you will start feeling wonderful. A strong Vagal tone greatly boosts your immune system as well. These exercises will help create a robust immune system when done regularly.
- Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe in slowly. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale longer than you inhaled. If you inhaled for, say, 4 counts, your exhalation should be 6 to 10 counts. Do this for 15-20 breaths, approximately 5 minutes. You can do longer if you wish to. Ignore any thoughts, feelings, emotions or sensations that might pop up while you are doing the breathing – let them be. Just do the breathing, keeping gentle attention on the breath. It would be a great idea to continue sitting with your eyes closed when you finish the breathing.
- Make a low-pitched humming sound – like a bee. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Breathe in and as you breathe out do the humming. This is great to do with kids, they love the humming and relax quickly. This can be done together in a group as well and will everyone participating in the exercise feel fantastic. You may want to keep your eyes closed and relax and sink into the sensation of the sound after you finish. Do the hums for at least 10 breaths, preferably for about 5 minutes or so.
- Do throat gargles. Use warm water with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder (which will boost immunity too). Each gargle should be about 20-30 seconds. Do 5-10 gargles. This exercise has the added benefit of cleaning up your throat along with making you feel relaxed. When you finish gargling, sit comfortably on a chair and relax for a few minutes with your eyes closed. If for any reason, salt and turmeric are unavailable, just warm water gargles will work as well.
In this time of crisis, these are fantastic little tools to bring calm and peace into our lives. If you do these on a regular basis, you will slowly become more resilient to “perceived threat” as you train your brain into understanding that even though you may be upset, there is no danger. Unpleasant moods will vanish faster. Feelings of well-being will last longer.
If you enjoyed this article and found it useful please share it with others. Maybe you could explore our book Happiness Express – A Journey to Everyday Well-Being. You will find many more such tips as well as easy lifestyle changes in it that will equip you with the knowledge that can make happiness a more integral part of your life than ever before. You can buy our book from Amazon. A Kindle version is available as well.
And if you would like to know more about Craniosacral Therapy and how to learn this amazing technique, check out www.sssoha.com