4 Ways to Calm Your Anxious Brain




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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

One common trigger for acting out sexually is anxiousness or situations that create anxiety and stress.

There is a logical reason for this as the brainstem is a crucial part of the brain responsible for regulating basic physiological functions such as breathing, heart rate, and arousal. When under stress, the sympathetic nervous system can become activated, leading to a fight, flight, or freeze response. 

And so when someone struggles with the ability to regulate their emotions and their brain stem becomes overly stimulated because of stress, they may choose to detach (freeze) or escape (flee) through the use of porn and/or sex rather than deal with the situation at hand.

Understand that this “choice” is less of an intentional decision but a result of having poor neural integration.

This video by Dr. Dan Siege offers a great visual explanation of how the brain can lose integration under stress.

In light of this reality, it is crucial to understand how to calm the brainstem during times of stress. This ensures the ability to manage emotions and thoughts effectively, preventing a descent into neural chaos.

The following are four simple interventions you can turn to in moments of anxiousness:

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation. Focus on slow, deep breaths to signal to your body and brain that it’s safe to relax. 

Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process several times until you feel a sense of calm. There are many different types of breathing techniques such as the 4-7-8 breath pattern or box breathing, so experiment with a few and see which one fits your needs the best.


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Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

I’ve used this one before when I struggled with panic attacks, and it proved very effective.

PMR involves tensing and then gradually releasing different muscle groups in your body. This technique helps alleviate physical tension associated with stress. Start with your toes and work your way up through your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group. 

This can promote a sense of calmness and reduce the physiological effects of stress.

If possible, try this technique laying down, so your body is at complete ease.

Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It requires one to slow down and tune in to their emotions and feelings. Practices such as mindful breathing or body scan meditations can help calm the brainstem by redirecting your focus away from stressors.

Regular mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce the activity of the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with the stress response.

Similar benefits can be achieved through the practice of prayerful meditation and spiritual reading. Many individuals find that incorporating spiritual or contemplative practices into their routine can contribute to a sense of calmness and well-being, akin to the effects of mindfulness meditation.

Need help with this?

Download a mindfulness app that can help guide you.

Yoga and Gentle Exercise

Engaging in gentle physical activity, such as yoga and stretching, can help calm the brainstem by promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension. Yoga combines controlled movements with deep breathing and mindfulness, making it an effective way to alleviate stress. 

Many from a faith background avoid yoga because of its association with eastern religious practices, but yoga can be non-spiritual and still therapeutic both physically and mentally.

The combination of physical postures, controlled breathing exercises, and concentration in yoga can contribute to a sense of calmness and balance. In fact, regular practice of yoga has been linked to decreased stress levels and improved overall well-being.

Ultimately, understanding the intricate relationship between stress, the brainstem, and coping mechanisms is crucial for effective emotional management.

The brain’s response to stress, activating the sympathetic nervous system, can lead individuals to seek escape through sexual behaviors or other means, often as a result of poor neural integration. Recognizing that these activities help with self-care and managing emotions can help you deal with stressful situations calmly and clearly. By incorporating these practices into daily life, you can foster a sense of calmness, contributing to your overall well-being while preventing a descent into emotional dysregulation.

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