There is so much information out there about how to calm nerves, from the specific to the quite generic, and long lists on what to do with many options. When we are faced with so much choice and we need to learn how to calm nerves in different situations in our work and personal life, it is useful to have a simple and reliable technique that we can access when necessary.
In a previous BeSophro article, our Sophrologist Sophie talked about your sleep profile. So, now, let’s talk about your stress profile: how nervous or on edge do you feel on a daily basis? Drawing up your own stress profile can help you understand your triggers and behaviours so that you can adapt accordingly to help calm your nerves.
When we simply get on with our lives, we may not notice subtle changes and signs in our bodies that tell us we are tensed or anxious. However, when we get into the habit of noticing and measuring sensations, we can spot those changes and act to prevent a crisis. For example, if you train at the gym, you take a baseline measurement, which could be your weight, longest running time or heart rate. Over the course of 6-8 weeks, taking new measurements will make you realise how far you have come. Without tracking progress, there is no way to know if you are making improvements.
The difference when measuring stress is that it’s more of a qualitative process and, therefore, quite subjective. However, you can still rate your current stress levels on a scale of 1 to 10 and reassess your situation after a month or a couple of months. It’s important to know what your “before”, “during” and “after” state is, so you know when to act to calm your nerves. A useful way to measure stress to give an accurate result is to use the Mental Wellbeing questionnaire developed by CLES.
If you have a spare few minutes, assess what your stress levels are right now. How would you rate your current situation in terms of feeling nervous on a scale of 1 to 10? Write it down and come back to it later.
Self Help For Your Nerves – Practical Exercises
Now, let’s do a Sophrology exercise to help us calm instantly. The best way to start is with the TRATAC as it helps to bring your focus within so that any meditative exercise which follows is more powerful: in a comfortable sitting position, breathe in and outstretch your arm with your thumb pointing out. Fix your gaze on your thumb and hold your breath. Draw your thumb closer while still gazing at it then rest it on your forehead. Close your eyes and breathe as you relax your arms alongside your body.
If you live too much in your head and worry about everything, a good exercise to do is the shoulder pump. Breathe in from your tummy, raise your shoulders and, while holding your breath, pump the shoulders up and down until you feel you need to breathe out. Drop the shoulders as you exhale, relax and then pause for a few seconds and repeat twice more. Notice how you feel now: do your shoulders feel less tense? Does your mind feel clearer? Most importantly, do you feel calmer? Taking a moment to notice sensations is vital in Sophrology: each pause gives you an opportunity for reflection and to integrate the relaxation deeper into your body.
Of course, this is just a small taster of what Sophrology is and what it can do; these exercises cannot give you the full picture of the method as a whole.
The beauty of Sophrology is that it combines relaxation, breathing, visualisation and gentle movement. The movement element is particularly effective in connecting mind and body and brings an immediate sense of relief from tension. Sophrology is a phenomenological way of approaching consciousness. Phenomenology means the study of consciousness from a first person point of view. Each experience is linked with an intention and a way in which we interpret it. For example, two different people can perceive the same experience as good or bad. This approach is particularly useful when we need to shift our perception so we can become freer in the way we experience life. It can be a useful tool to help us face difficult situations in a calm frame of mind.
What To Do in the Middle of a Crisis
When we face a difficult situation and we are not equipped mentally to deal with it, we may become victims of anxiety and confusion. However, if we get into the habit of embracing a meditative practice, for example, Sophrology, we become more in tune with ourselves and can find the strength within that can help us get through a crisis.
It’s tempting to just go straight into panic mode because it feels more natural, but one of the best things we can do is to take a short break to regroup. A moment of pause using simple exercises can be a lifesaver before we rush into a decision, which may not be the right one for the situation. As soon as you feel the tension rising, do the exercises outlined before. Measure your stress levels before and after the exercises. The simple act of focusing mind and body in an activity that requires conscious breathing, gentle movement and visualisation can help shift from a negative to a more positive state of mind.
Athletes measure their progress as part of their training and they are rewarded with trophies, medals or simply a huge sense of achievement. We can also measure and celebrate our daily successes, no matter how small.
Let’s assume the crisis has gone and notice how you feel right now. If you have tried the exercises earlier, it’s useful to write down how you feel right now, measuring your stress levels on a scale of 1 to 10. Now, compare this score to the one you wrote down before the exercises. Any changes there? Of course, it’s totally fine if there is no change at all. The important thing is to get into the habit of taking some time out each day to reconnect with yourself and, if possible, write down how you feel at the present moment. Give yourself a pat on the back! Take a moment to look at how much you have achieved.
Here is another exercise that can help you to focus on the positive. The aim of this exercise is to achieve a state of relaxation and connection with your breath and the sensations in your body. When you do this exercise your mind and body register positive sensations that you can draw from any time you need them. Let’s do the exercise: keep your eyes closed and breathe from your tummy. Think of a positive anchoring word, for example, “calm”, and let it travel through your body with your breath. Imagine that you are drawing calm with your in breath and then bathe your body with calm on your out breath. You can also choose a gesture to strengthen the anchoring, for example pressing your thumb and index finger together (we talked about this exercise in a previous article about goal setting). When you feel tense you can reuse the gesture to help you reconnect with a positive feeling, such as a sense of calm. Make sure you don’t rush it and let go of any expectations. The fact that you are taking time out from your schedule is enough to give your mind some rest.
Practising these simple exercises has a cumulative effect and over time will shift your perception of reality deeply, making you less susceptible to lose your nerve and make you feel more stable and resilient. In fact, the power of Sophrology is in its ability to support you in your self-development journey, from understanding the mind/body connection to exploring your infinite inner resources as well as your subconscious. Sophrology is a transformative practice that affects people’s lives positively in the short and long term.
If you are new to Sophrology and would like to find out more, you can email [email protected] or read the book The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology, available on Amazon in English, Spanish and Dutch.