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3 Ways to Calm Your Nervous System

What would you do if I told you in one month you would have to run a half-marathon?

Like strength-training our muscles to lift heavier weights or endure longer physical stress, we can train our nervous systems to better manage mental and emotional stress.

When your sympathetic nervous system is triggered and your body is expecting to fight or run, it will remain in this state until your bodily response informs it that you are safe. Unfortunately, our advanced human interpersonal skills do not send a message via body language, informing our sympathetic nervous system that we are safe.

While there are many ways to send the proper message to your body, the trick is to physically exert energy (fight or flight) and then promote a feeling of safety. You can practice methods to calm your nervous system in an immediate moment of stress, and also prepare it for resiliency and quick recovery for moments of routine stress.

Here are some methods to try while in an immediate fight-or-flight stress response:


  • Say the ABCs backward
  • State an observation from each of your senses
  • Engage a new sense: calming scent, soft touch, uplifting music
  • Reframe your thoughts


  • Take a cold shower
  • Emotional Frequency Technique: tapping between eyebrows with affirmations
  • Wring out a frozen towel
  • Laugh
  • Move: Exercise, stretch, practice muscle tension/relaxation, walk, plank, jump, etc.


  • Deep breathing
  • Physical grounding: tree pose, walk in nature - barefoot if possible, garden
  • Coregulate: use others to help regulate (calm) your nervous system through emotional, physical, visual, or breathing connection. This applies to a spouse, children, parents, or friends, and, in appropriate ways, can also work with coworkers.

These techniques tell your body the threat must be gone—you have fought or flown, and you are safe.

We can proactively strengthen our response to life stress by practicing similar methods.

  • Routine meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Exercise/Movement
  • Gratitude practice
  • And so much more...


These activities can prepare us for quickly applying distraction, interruption, and control techniques, when the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response is triggered. Routine practice is also critical for managing chronic stress as a way to continually recenter.

Life will have stress. Practicing routine stress-resilience exercises will help when we come across life’s unavoidable stressors, but resist using these to justify maintaining a high-stress lifestyle. Success is more sustainable when you are thriving.


Courtney Murphy is a Career Coach and HR Consultant who brings nearly 20 years’ experience in corporate HR with degrees in Strategic HR Management, Psychology, and Diversity and Inclusion. 

With a passion for social and organizational psychology, Courtney has extensively studied occupational stress to discover effective and sustainable methods to improve engagement and motivate performace.

Courtney simplifies relevant data and useful information to help employees and companies thrive in their success.


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