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4 Step Breathing Exercise To Reduce Nervous System Overload

Updated: May 3

When it comes to health and wellbeing, there tends to be a focus on our muscular and digestive systems. However, have you ever considered your nervous system, and how it can be affected by poor physical and mental health, as well as poor nutrition?

If you are feeling stressed, or not quite in tune with your mind and body, it may be worth taking steps to improve how you take care of your nervous system, and reduce the effects of nervous system overload.

What is nervous system overload?

An overloaded nervous system is one where the “fight or flight” system is triggered unnecessarily. This state is also called the sympathetic nervous system. As human beings, we evolved to have this system in place to protect us from predators and other life-threatening situations. However, you may still feel the sympathetic nervous system switch on in your daily life: you may experience it when giving a presentation, working to a deadline, or receiving some bad news.

What are the signs and symptoms of overload?

The common signs and symptoms of nervous system overload include:

  • Digestive issues

  • Inability to relax

  • Lack of appetite

  • Poor sleep

  • Teeth clenching or grinding

These symptoms, among others, can affect our wellbeing and cause significant changes in our movement, mindset, nutrition, and emotions.

How to reduce the effects of nervous system overload?

Something you can do at anytime, anywhere, to reduce the effects of nervous system overload is a simple breathing exercise. By increasing your intake of oxygen, you can improve the oxygen exchange in your body, reduce your heart rate, and feel calmer.

Breathing exercise to help with overwhelm

  1. Get comfortable - find a sitting, laying or standing position, loosen any restrictive clothing.

  2. In your comfortable position, rest your feet on the floor, and float your arms a little way away from your body, so you have ample space to breathe.

  3. To start the breathing exercise, begin by inhaling through your nose, letting your breath flow deep down into your abdomen, expanding the chest and stomach naturally. Count to five on your inhale, and hold.

  4. Now, exhale through your mouth, slow and steady, again counting to five across the exhale.

Repeat steps 3 and 4, concentrating on your technique and timing, slow and steady, in and out.

Keep doing this for 3-5 minutes.

Need more information about overload?

Check out my health expert interview with Elaine Hutchinson, owner of 'Creating Calm' where we talk about strategies that can help with stress in adults and children.

You can also take a look at the "Find your Focus" 1 hour workshop, which looks at overload and overwhelm in your 4 body systems - Brain, Gut, Heart and Connective Tissue. How to recognise signs and symptoms and simple exercises to help reduce overload and overwhelm.

To register, head over to the Find your Focus workshop page or check out my blogs on overloaded systems:

If you would like 121 help, consider a Functional Kinesiology session with Zoisa. It’s also worth investing in your rest and relaxation time, so check out our restorative massage treatments to promote positivity and comfort in your own mind and body.


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