It’s Labor Day Weekend, and I’m across the San Francisco bay helping out with my three-week-old grandson. On Friday, traffic was heavy, with people heading out for fun and relaxation on this last summer holiday. I’ll head back to the East Bay later today and hang out with my daughter and her family. The forecast calls for a heat wave with 112-degree temps, so floating in her pool sounds nice. I’m grateful that the heat no longer wilts me as it did when I was in BIND, benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction. I’m thankful, too, for my nervous system’s ability to calm down and allow me to relax. It was hard to relax in benzo withdrawal. My nervous system was jacked-up twenty-four seven.

How do we relax in benzo withdrawal when our nervous system doesn’t have fully functioning parts it needs to calm down? It isn’t easy, but there are some things that we can do to encourage our bodies to unwind a little.

Distraction is an excellent way to take the focus off our symptoms. When we shift our focus away from ourselves, we automatically reduce our stress levels. Gardening, engaging in hobbies, watching an engrossing movie, reading a good book, and learning something new are wonderful ways to distract.

Another way to reduce stress, thus inviting our nervous system to shift into a relaxing parasympathetic ventral vagal response, is to engage in activities that metabolize stress hormones. Walking, swimming, yoga, and other gentle exercises are helpful. Prayer, chanting, singing, and meditation help, too.

Gratitude can play a role in helping us be calmer as it shifts our nervous system away from the protect state—fight, flight, freeze. Using your breath to calm down is another way to encourage such a shift. You can do box-breathing inhale to the count of four, pause for four, exhale for four, and pause for four. Or, try seven-eleven breathing: inhale the count of seven, exhaling for the count of eleven for a few breaths.

Using a mantra can also be helpful. My favorite in benzo withdrawal was, “I am safe, I am healing, I will recover.” Positive, hopeful words can soothe our nervous system.
We may not be able to achieve total relaxation as we can with a properly functioning nervous system, but we can try our best to calm down. Eventually, our nervous system heals, and we will relax. You’ll be able to get cozy in your bed or couch, float in the pool,  or sit with friends and be happy. You’ll be able to bliss out in the ways you enjoy the most.

Not only will you be able to relax your body, but your mind will also be at rest, the torturous intrusive or racing thoughts long gone. You’ll think positive thoughts and feel positive emotions, grateful for a healed nervous system, eager and determined to live your highest and best life!

How do you try to relax in benzo withdrawal? Leave a comment and share what you find to be the most helpful.