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Stop Worrying So You Can Sleep

Florida just had a huge hurricane. My kids and I had to pack, fortify our home, figure out where to go, and evacuate quickly. Then, of course, is the checking in on friends and loved ones, helping out neighbors and elderly family members, tracking the storm, trying to find a gas station that still has gas...lots to worry about.

Add the weather to a long list of things outside of our control, but that stir up fears and anxiety. Just opening your phone can send our hearts racing with terrible stories from around the globe, tragedy in our community, bullies and snarky comments, bills, fraud alerts, scam calls. You get the point. If you're anything like me, your mind spins at night. I feel completely drained and worn down yet can not fall asleep. My mind easily turns to the long list of things I have to do and I can spiral into a place of anxiety rather than relaxation.

It seems, in these moments I'm describing, I'm stuck in flight-or-flight mode. "Your autonomic nervous system has two main branches – your sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight), and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) (1)." The main nerve that tends to activate this "rest and digest" reaction is the vagus nerve. By stimulating this nerve, we can help our body regulate and activate our parasympathetic response.

I found a very helpful video that demonstrates three techniques to help us self-soothe and get back on track. Additionally, try this breathing trick any time you feel fraught with worry or overly anxious:

  • Take a deep breath in.

  • Pinch your nose closed and "fake exhale" for a full count of 15. The trick is to "bear down" in the way you would if you were forcing an exhale or the way you would while blowing up a balloon. You want to activate your abdomen.

  • Rest for 30 seconds.

  • Repeat up to 4 times

  • Stop if you feel dizzy.

(Always check with your doctor before you start any health care program or routine. Exercise and breathwork can change your blood pressure.)

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