Yes it can be challenging and scary at times. The good news however, is that it can also be rapidly addressed without the need for any medication or pills. And no these tools don’t involve meditation (which can often exacerbate symptoms) — using the mind to control the mind is inefficient. It’s far more effective to leverage the body (explore the science behind this here)
🫁 Protocol #1 — Breathwork Stacking
Required ~ 7 minutes & headphones
This seven minute guided combines four techniques that have been shown in studies to reduce anxiety and overwhelm — Orienting, physiological sighs, alternate nostril breathing & finally the single breath hum.
🛌 Protocol #2 — Non-Sleep-Deep-Rest (NSDR)
Required: 15 minutes + somewhere to lie down
NSDR – or “non-sleep-deep-rest’” – is a term coined by Stanford professor Andrew Huberman that uses a technique of guided body scanning to induce a state of waking sleep.
This practice has many benefits, but one that is lesser known is its potential to increase interoceptive sensitivity.
It involves a thorough scan of the inner landscape, bringing awareness to specific points around the body, and has been shown to activate slower brain waves and in turn, improve markers of cardiovascular health and heart rate variability.
If you were to measure your brain waves during the practice, you'd see that they are rapidly moving from active beta into alpha and eventually down into what's known as a "hypnagogic state”—which is the threshold between alpha & theta waves, kinda like a knife’s edge where the body technically “sleeps” while the mind is lucid.
In one study I came across, a Nidra practice was delivered weekly for 16 weeks remotely to 32 patients suffering from generalised anxiety. They reported that their overall state anxiety was decreased by 41%.
NSDR has also been shown to flush cortisol and norepinephrine –– aka adrenaline –– from the system so that your body is naturally primed to be more receptive to interoceptive exploration.
👪 Protocol #3 — Co-Regulation
John Muir once wrote, ‘When one tugs at a single thing, he finds it is attached to the rest of the world’
The same is absolutely true of our nervous systems. We are constantly tuning our state to be in limbic resonance with the environment and people around us.
We are social apes we have evolved to need human connection; it is as essential a need as sunlight or nutrients. When we were growing up, we literally didn’t have the neural circuitry to regulate ourselves and relied on the co-regulation of our primary caregivers. Now that we’re adults ~ and particularly adult men ~ we seem to have this belief that we should be able to face any challenge on our own. I call it Lone Wolf Syndrome.
📝 Researchers have shown that being deprived of co-regulation i.e., being lonely ~ can speed up the aging process more than smoking.
It’s also not just other humans that our nervous systems are dancing with ~ but also other animals. You know how sometimes dogs will appear to take on the characteristics of their owners… there’s one study that found that emotional contagion exists between dogs and their owners ~ even finding a positive correlation between human and dog HRV levels.
⚙️ What is the mechanism? How does it work?
As you co-regulate with another human, your brain’s mirror neurons are activated—this enables the person in the deregulated state to literally ‘mirror’ your calmness… to the degree that your endocrine systems are literally tuning into each other and producing similar hormones.
So it’s quite literally true to say that, to a certain extent ~ we become the average of the five nervous systems we spend the most time with.
🧪 How can you experiment with this in your life?
- Firstly consider who you are co-regulating with on a regular basis. Perhaps it’s your spouse, your kids, your pet, or your co-workers. And acknowledge that your nervous systems are shaping each other.
- If you have a partner, spouse, close friend or even a pet ~ try exploring your co-regulation capacity. You can try t a 20-second hug or making extended eye contact & breathe together, and pay attention to how you feel before and after.