Category: Calm Your Nerves

Stress Less: Sleep More

There is nothing, no thing, quite like a good night’s sleep.  It’s natures way of hitting “reset.”  And who couldn’t use a daily reset?  I know I sure can.  But we, the big collective “we” seem to have this notion that getting enough shut-eye is next to impossible.  There’s just too much to do…

Huh?  What is more important than your health?  What could be better than handling your to-do list with a calm mood and clear focus?

Sleep (or rather the lack of it) has been implicated in many many disease processes including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension as well as anxiety and depression.  It simply makes sense to make sleep a priority.

How?  It does take commitment, a willingness to listen to your body as opposed to overriding your physical needs in order to watch that late night program, get one more thing done, etc.

Remember when you were a kid and you could fall asleep just about anywhere?  You still could if you let yourself.  While literally falling asleep in a meeting isn’t cool, learning to once again tune in to the feeling of sleepiness washing over yourself can kick start your ability to get the rest you need.  So take time each evening to tune in to yourself, sit quietly and notice.  Do you feel the tug of the Sandman?

Just taking those moments to simply sit quietly gives your sleep rhythms a boost.  Once you do, you’re on your way to unwinding enough to get the rest you want.  A few other tips (there will be more on these later) that support getting restful sleep.

1. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before you go to bed.  (a half-hour is the bare minimum)

2. Turn down the temperature.

3. Create a bed-time ritual that relaxes your body and your mind.  Do it consciously and religiously.

4. Make sure you have at least 8-hours of in-bed time.  A REM cycle is approximately 90 minutes.  Eight hours give you time to settle, get seven full REM cycles and wake up refreshed BEFORE your alarm goes off.  Your brain needs to complete an entire cycle to optimize alertness.  So, on those days when you can’t get your full seven (or eight) cycles, get up at the end of a REM cycle rather than hitting snooze for 15 or 20 minutes.


For more on the link between sleep and anxiety check out:



Calm Your Nerves #26 – Bounce

bounceLike it’s rocking cousin, gentle bouncing has a relaxing effect on the body.

Need proof?

Give this a try:

Stand.  Bend at the hip joints and let your arms hang down toward your feet.  Notice how close your hands come to the ground – without stretching.

Come to standing again.

Gently bounce – lifting your heels and letting them drop back to the floor easily, effortlessly and quickly – many times.

Stand.  Repeat bending at the hip joints, letting your arms hang down toward the floor.  Notice now how close your hands come to the ground.  Further?

So what just happened?  When you bounce, you create the conditions for your flexor and extensor muscles to find a new balance.  In other words, you stop working so hard.  And working smarter, not harder, leads to ease.

Calm Your Nerves #25 – Rock on

rockRocking isn’t just for babies anymore.  Studies have shown that rocking – whether in a chair or hammock, or simply swaying rhythmically – soothes frazzled nerves, promotes healing and supports deep sleep.

So next time you’re feeling anxious, give it a try.  Find a rocker and treat yourself to a session of gentle motion.  Better yet, why not make rocking part of your bedtime ritual.  A half-hour of rocking in a chair while reading, knitting, listening to music or simply being, may be just the ticket to a deep restful, drug-free sleep.

Tip: For best results say no to television, cell phones, computers and video games while you rock. 

Calm Your Nerves #24 – Breathe Through a Straw

strawSlow your breathing and calm your nerves by breathing through a straw.

Give it a try:

Lightly wrap your lips around a drinking straw.  Take slow shallow breathes letting yourself inhale and exhale through the straw.


What happens in the area of your diaphragm?
Does your breath become deeper and easier?
What happens to the tension in your face and neck?

No straw?  Softly purse your lips.  Inhale and exhale taking shallow breaths as if you were breathing through a straw.

Calm Your Nerves #23 – Change Your Mind

change your mindAct or React?  The choice is yours. When you mindlessly react to events and demands, it’s easy for your nerves to get frazzled.  Not a happy situation but one you can change by choosing a more measured response based on awareness.

Easier said than done?  Perhaps at first.  But like building muscle, starting small and doing a little bit – consistently – increases ability until soon you are able to “change your mind” almost without effort.

Want a recipe for change?

Leave it to the good folks at “Daily Good” to provide the instruction manual. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I’m passing along their tidbit of “goodness”.

Click to read more

Calm Your Nerves #22 – Help Another

help anotherHelp yourself by helping someone else. A new study has shown that reaching out to help someone else has the effect of significantly reducing anxiety. So sooth those frazzled nerves by offering to help someone in need. What goes around really does come around.

For a bit more on the effects of altruism on anxiety, check out these articles:

You Can Fight Anxiety By Helping Others — Really

Giving support to others, not just receiving it, has beneficial effects

Calm Your Nerves #21 – Find a New Rhythm

Like nodding your head, opening and closing your hands can be used to guide your nervous system to a calmer, easier rhythm.

Give it a try:

Bring the tips of the fingers on your non-dominant hand to touch.
As slowly and lightly as possible begin to open your hand just a little bit.
Reverse the movement and slowly bring the tips of your fingers together again.
Continue to bring the tips of your fingers toward and away from each other as if your hand were a flower bud opening and closing in slow motion.

When you have found slow, smooth rhythm with your non-dominant hand, try it with your dominant hand.
Then, try it with both hands at the same time.

What happens to your breathing?
What happens to the tension in your jaw, neck, shoulders, face, etc. as you continue to open and close?

Calm Your Nerves #20 – Do the Dishes

dishesGetting down and dirty (pun intended) with the pots and pans could have a positive effect on your nervous system. And could actually result in the sparkling glassware and spotless utensils that dishwasher detergents promise but never actually deliver.

For centuries, Zen practitioners have experienced the benefits of mindfulness. They formalized their practice into hours of sitting meditation. But is all that sitting really necessary? While it does have added benefit, it’s not so much the sitting but what you bring to it that counts.

Simple activities, done with mindfulness, i.e. focused attention, have been shown to have the same effect. Doing the dishes is the latest to get scientific approval.

So next time you’re tempted to toss your dishes – either out or into the dishwasher – stop. Fill the sink with suds, grab a cloth or sponge and give the grime a run for its money. The more attention you pay to what you’re doing, the greater the benefit. So, take your time.

Feel the soapy water on your hands (or through your gloves if your skin is sensitive).
Really look at what you’re washing.
Watch as grime is wiped away.
Add a little elbow grease and work away at the tough stains and baked on grime. (Soak if necessary.)
Rinse away the dirt and watch it go down the drain.
Enjoy the sense of accomplishment and the squeaky clean of your dishes, and – who knows – perhaps even a calmer you..