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Calming of the Nervous System for Self-Management of Pain and Anxiety

by Amber Patterson, Occupational Therapist

The Nervous System is composed of different parts. The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response. The Parasympathetic Nervous system is also known as the rest and digest system. If we perceive a threat, our brains activate the Sympathetic Nervous system to keep us safe. Our heart rate, respiration rate and blood pressure all increase to get us ready to act in response to the threat. Some things that the nervous system considers threatening are: emotional or physical stress, pain, fear of injury and life threatening situations. Thankfully, the Parasympathetic Nervous System can be activated to calm us. With daily activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, you will feel more relaxed overall.

Some ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system are:

  1. Practicing relaxation breathing

    • Place your hand on your abdomen.

    • Breathe in and feel your abdomen move out.

    • Breathe out and feel your abdomen move in.

    • Focus on the movement of air, in through your nose down into your lungs and back out.

  2. Practice a grounding exercise such as The Five Senses

    • Think of 5 things you can see.

    • 4 things you can touch.

    • 3 things you can hear.

    • 2 things you can smell.

    • 1 thing you can taste.

  3. Practice Mindfulness during activities

    • Incorporate your senses into the activity.

    • E.g. Showering: focus on the smell the shampoo, the feel the soap and the

warmth of the water on your body and listen to the sound of the water.

  1. Practice Progressive Muscle relaxation

  2. Practice Mindful Movement such as:

    • Yoga




  • Tai Chi

  • Chi Gong

To learn more or to develop an individualized program with one of our physiotherapists or occupational therapist, Amber Paterson connect with us at Tuxedo Physiotherapy.


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