Highly Charged Scenario:
- The sheriff drags the trouble-making cowboy out of the bar and dunks his face in the chilly water of the horse trough.
- The hysterical woman’s friend throws a glass of cold water in her face, bringing her to her senses.
- The health/phys. ed. teacher advises his high school boys to take a cold shower when certain hormones start racing.
- A contemplative student rubs his temple in concentration.
- Anna, on her way to the meet the King of Siam, musically models to her nervous son the value of whistling “whenever I feel afraid”, and produces evidence that after doing so, she’s convinced that she’s no longer afraid.
- A frightened woman clutches her chest upon receiving shocking news.
- (Pre-COVID19) A warm handshake puts both parties at ease, enabling them to begin a peaceful negotiation.
For decades we’ve been entertained by the old movies where we’ve deduced the meaning of these symbolic behaviors. Surprisingly scientific, each scenario actually illustrates how one can deliver a certain personal physiological message: I’m ok; I’m safe, I can manage this.
Each demonstrate the activating of the rest & digest nerves which do indeed downregulate an anxious state. These nerves travel close to the skin surface. They loop around the head, curl around the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and chest before diving deep into gut. One can gain rapid relief from stress by encouraging these nerves to decompress, thereby releasing the necessary neurotransmitters and hormones for reducing the state of alarm.
Need quick relief from stress?
- Exercise the muscles and nerves around your eyes by practicing serene and happy looks in the mirror.
- Look deep into a loved one’s eyes.
- Take a cold shower, splash cold water on your face, drink ice water, plunge your wrists into cold water.
- Tap your head, place your hands on your upper chest and breathe deeply.
- Hold someone’s hand or fold your hands. (Pray while you’re at it.)
- Whistle, seriously! Whistle, sing or play a wind instrument.
- Gently pull the tragus (the pointy little backward facing tab on the outer ear). One can actually make sufficient room for the rest/digest nerves to stretch out and deliver their message of peace by doing this for a mere 45-60 seconds!
- Above all, breathe! Take a slow inhale, hold it in your gut, and do a double-slow exhale. Repeat for 2 minutes and you’ll notice a big difference. In fact, breathing like this several times a day encourages focus, peace and resilience.
Plenty of relaxing nerves are close to the skin where we can access them. Physical stimulation of these nerves actually activates the rest/digest nervous system. Who knew that we could gain this much wisdom from classic movies? By the way, add “watch an old movie” to your relaxing resources list!