Controlling your anxiety and nervousness can be helped by simply lengthening your exhale.
Hacking your Vagus Nerve simply by using your breath and a lengthened exhale can help against stress responses, and will improve your Heart Rate Variable.
During an inhale, the sympathetic nervous system stimulates a very brief acceleration of the heart rate. During an exhale, the Vagus Nerve secretes a transmitter substance which causes a deceleration of the heart rate via the parasympathetic nervous system.
For example, a yoga practice instructs us to focus on the breath; specifically on the exhale. Using just the breath alone, one can lower one’s heart rate, which will in turn help to bring down anxiety levels, and help with agitation and general stress. Pranayamic breath work has been in use successfully in many ways for thousands of years around the world for the exact same reason. Almost every couple of years, fresh research corroborates that each of us can trigger our “rest and relax” parasympathetic nervous system to bring about a relaxation response , simply by focusing on the inhalation-to-exhalation ratio of our breathing and consciously extending the length of each exhale while doing breathing exercises as we go about our day-to-day lives. This allows us to focus more clearly, pay closer attention to someone or something, and allows us to be much more “present” in our lives with others. Immensely helpful in any situation.
Using these respiration patterns frequently (slowed and with longer exhalations) can explain a significant part of the efficacy found within contemplative activity practice. Though contemplative activities are diverse, they have shown a similar pattern of beneficial effects on health, mental health, and cognition: mostly in stress-related conditions and performance. This pattern can be explained by these controlled breathing exercises.
An easy way to test this and integrate it into your daily life is to use the 4:8 breathing cycle.
Inhale deep and long for four seconds, then exhale deep and long for 8 seconds. This should come out to about 5 cycles per minute.
Any time you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, try 2 minutes of Vagus Nerve Breathing, or about 10 rounds of the 4:8 inhale/exhale cycles. Just see for yourself how you feel afterward.