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Exploring the Connection Between Anxiety and the Nervous System: How Your Body Reacts to Stress.

Updated: Dec 28, 2023


This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on what happens to our bodies when we feel anxious and offers tips on how to de-activate using the physiological sigh.


Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection and an accompanying body based check-in.



'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)



Feeling 'Activated'

Tight chest, racing heart, anxiety -- all signs that you're activated. More specifically, that your sympathetic nervous system is activated, which is helpful when you're in danger, but less so when you're wondering why the person you started dating hasn't responded to your text.


Unfortunately, our bodies can't tell the difference between physical and emotional stressors, and in a world where we're chronically stressed, most of our 'flight or fight (or freeze or fawn)' responses are on the fritz.



How does anxiety affect my body?


It's hard to think clearly, check in with our emotions, and make intentional decisions when we're activated....it also slows digestion (shoutout to the anxious girlies with stomach issues), interrupts our sex lives, & disrupts our endocrine system (think sleep, mood, metabolism, immune response).


Do you recognize some of these symptoms? What happens when you feel this way? Find out how to 'de-activate' below.




Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)


The Physiological Sigh

One of the most effective ways to shift your body into a deactivated, relaxed state is through the physiological sigh. The rhythm of the breath helps reset your lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide more efficiently. Try it out now with a few cycles of breath.


Inhale through your nose in two sharp breaths and allow your lungs to fill.


As you exhale, breathe out -- slowly and audibly -- through pursed lips.


Hear that 'whoosh' sound? That's the physiological sigh. That audible breath through your lips is what lets your body know that it's safe enough to go into 'rest & digest' mode (aka your parasympathetic nervous system). Try making your exhales longer than your inhales. Keep going.




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