Your nervous system is composed of many subsystems that help your body remain alive. Among these subsystems is the parasympathetic system which is your own built-in relaxation system. Analysis shows that the parasympathetic system helps your body perform more efficiently by conserving energy and slowing heart rate. In this state, our glands and digestive system begin to perform at optimum levels.
Oftentimes the parasympathetic system is called the rest and recovery system because it delivers abundant healing. When we become anxious we trigger the sympathetic system which can initiate a harmful domino effect known as the "fight or flight" response.
The "fight or flight" response, as doctors call it, is designed to help us in threatening situations by activating key physiological changes like increasing cortisol and adrenaline levels. The physiological changes will increase heart rate, produce tunnel vision, nervous shaking, dilate pupils, and a flush face. You might feel as though your muscles are tightening.
The chain of events is designed to help you flee a dangerous situation. Anxious thoughts trigger this response and unless you do something about it, it can wreak havoc.
I call the following technique the balloon rule because it reminds me of what happens to a balloon when you inflate it and suddenly pops. It's something I discovered in my years of speaking with people who experience anxiety. No one really knows who invented the technique or how it got started, but we do know that it works to stop the "fight or flight" response and stimulate the "rest and recovery" mode of the parasympathetic system. The astonishing feature about this built-in mechanism is that it requires no medication to arouse.
Taking a deep inhale, holding your breath, tensing your muscles, and then exhaling and relaxing can bring a person instant relief. Best of all, the technique does not require any special tools or devices. You can perform the technique any time you feel stressed, especially when you fly, drive, on elevators, or train rides.
It's also very helpful in social situations like meetings, public speaking, dating, parties, or anytime you're among a crowd. It can apply to any situation to help you calm down.
The Balloon TechniqueWhen you start to feel nervous, or a little anxious, stop what you're doing and find a place where you can be alone for a couple minutes.
Start by taking a deep breath through your nose or mouth. Completely fill your lungs and hold it. Pretend that you're a balloon filling with air to the max. Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds. While holding your breath, tense every muscle in your body. You should feel muscles tightening in your legs, abdomen, back, shoulders, arms, and neck. When your time is up, exhale and release the tension. You will immediately feel more relaxed. The whole process should take less than 30 seconds.
If you feel like need to relax a little more, wait a minute or two, and use the technique again. Generally once is enough to calm down. You can use this technique ahead of any situation to keep you steady.
Consult your doctor before practicing this technique to make sure you are physically fit.