The stressors of the last few years are piling up, anxiety is at an all-time high, and you feel
on edge all the time. Sound familiar? Your nervous system may be stuck in fight-or-flight mode, which means your sympathetic nervous system is working overtime to keep you safe from any real or imagined dangers. This leads to mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, and may manifest as mental health concerns or physical ailments, and nobody wants that!
To counter this, we have to learn ways to engage our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), the rest-and-digest part of our internal "alarm system" that tells us we are safe and can relax. When chronic stress or anxiety has been hanging around for a while, you may need more than sim
ply reassuring yourself with soothing ideas that logically you know to be true. You may need to focus on sending your body the message "you are safe," rather than relying on your mind to listen and understand.
So... here are 50 ways to do that, ways to allow your body to feel safe, comforted, and soothed so that you can disarm that internal alarm system and settle your worrying mind.
Breathe. Deep belly breathing, or your favourite breathwork practice, sends more oxygen to your brain, slows your heartrate, and releases tension from your body.
Music. The soothing rhythm of music regulates the nervous system, and invokes pleasant memories and feelings, if chosen wisely.
Sway, rock your body, or dance.
Connect with nature. Touch some bark, hug a tree, throw some rocks in the water, create a nature collage.
Snuggle your pet.
Sing. Bonus points for loud singing in the car or shower.
Drink a warm cup of tea.
Get cozy under a weighted blanket.
Gaze at the stars.
Give yourself a hand or foot massage.
Journal. Try a "mind dump" to get all the swirling worries or ideas out of your head.
Read a book. Like, one with pages.
Paint or draw. Make a mess...it doesn't have to be pretty.
Give yourself a hug. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
Do a puzzle. The repetition of puzzles is soothing, and when you find that missing piece, it's oh-so-satisfying.
Watch a funny show.
Touch something soft.
Put an ice pack on your wrist or neck.
Weaving. The rhythmic over-under-over-under repetition brings mindfulness and soothing to the creative process.
Cook a new recipe. Eat it mindfully.
Write yourself a love note. Include some compliments.
Talk to someone you trust. Text, call, or meet up for a chat.
Go for a walk or run. Rhythmic movement engages the PNS, and moving your body just feels good.
Visualization. Imagine your favourite place in as great detail as you can.
Drink a very cold glass of water, focusing on the cool sensation as it flows down your throat.
Take a bath or go for a swim. There's just something so soothing about enveloping yourself in water.
Hum. The vibrations of humming are soothing.
Practice yoga. Whether it's a class, or a quick solo practice at home, pairing breath with movement allows us to feel strong and safe.
Meditate. Have you tried the Insight Timer app? I highly recommend it!
Swing in a hammock or swing. Rock yourself like a baby.
Aromatherapy. Inhale a relaxing scent.
Spend time by a river, lake, or ocean. Listen and watch the water moving.
Colour. Those adult colouring books are fabulous.
Do a body scan. Pay attention to one body part at a time, slowly, from head to toe.
Watch the clouds. Find shapes in the clouds as they drift by.
Walk barefoot on the earth. Really feel the ground beneath you.
Mindfully eat your favourite fruit with your eyes closed.
Play with a fidget toy or squeeze a stress ball.
Cry. Let it out. Your nervous system may need this release.
Count things in the room.
Ride a bike. Again, rhythmic movement is your friend.
Do a face mask.
Stretch. Release some tension from your body.
Clean. But only if this does not add to your stress.
Treat yourself to something yummy. Chocolate, perhaps?
Watch the sunrise or sunset. Be fully present.
Light a candle.
Hike in the woods.
Practice gratitude. Remembering things that are okay makes us feel good.
Experiment with some things on this list to see what is soothing for your nervous system!