Knowing how to calm your nervous system in moments of overwhelm or overstimulation is extremely important to regulate your mood and maintain a sense of inner calm.
Last weekend, we had a large party to celebrate my oldest son’s high school graduation. I loved everyone who came, and I was excited to have them all in our home and gardens. But at times, it felt like a lot of emotions and energy to absorb.
The picture is of me hugging my two teenagers. We’ve done this for years. Originally it was our response when my older son Logan, who is on the autism spectrum, became overstimulated. We’d form this hug of protection around him. The pressure of the hug on the body sends signals to the brain to calm down, telling the nervous system that everything is okay. We call it a “family sandwich.” But now, I find great comfort in reaching for them and holding them in a squeeze when I need to regulate my own emotions.
Because when we are engaging in a hug, a chemical in our bodies called oxytocin is released. This hormone is associated with happiness and less stress. It is often referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” A hug from a loved one gives us a sense of safety, comfort, and empathy. It has a powerful effect on our mental health by reducing stress, our physical health by boosting our immune system, and our emotional health by combating feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
When the world feels unsettling and overwhelming, try reaching for a hug from someone you love. Then, hold the hug for at least 30 seconds and breathe.