A neuroscientist shares the 3 exercises she does to stop stress and anxiety—in ‘just a few minutes’

Tara Swart, Contributor

CNBC – As a neuroscientist, I use three exercises that take just a few minutes to reset my nervous system and feel calm again:

1. The mindful sigh

You should be sitting comfortably for this. I do it at my desk when I notice key symptoms of stress like shallow breathing, tense shoulders or an increased heart rate.

  • Take a deep, long inhale through your nose for five seconds and hold.
  • Take another quick inhale for one second and hold for three seconds.
  • Sigh a slow, long exhale through your mouth for six seconds.
  • Repeat the cycle three times.

That quick second inhale causes the air sacs in the lung, which collapses when we’re done inhaling, to reinflate with air. As a result, the surface area in the lungs increases, and releases carbon dioxide from the body more efficiently. This helps to relax the body.

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Long exhales cause a slight increase in pressure to the receptors in the heart, signaling the brain to slow down the heart rate.

2. The half-salamander 

This is called the half-salamander because your eyes are moving while your head is kept still, similar to a salamander’s behavior.

  • Sit or stand in a comfortable position, with your head facing forward.
  • Shift your eyes to the right without turning your head.
  • Tilt your head towards your right shoulder and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Let your head come back up to its neutral position and shift your eyes to look forward again …


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