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Managing nerves, anxiety, and burnout | Jonny Miller (Nervous System Mastery)

Managing nerves, anxiety, and burnout | Jonny Miller (Nervous System Mastery)


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Jonny Miller is the founder of Nervous System Mastery, a course that has helped hundreds of founders and tech leaders cultivate calm, reduce nervousness, enhance resilience, and elevate their sense of aliveness. Having personally benefited from Jonny’s teachings, I’m especially excited to have him on the show. In this episode, we discuss:
• How shifting your focus from the mind to the body can help ease nervousness
• The power of breath in changing states
• The importance of “interoception”
• Specific breathing exercises to both calm and excite your nervous system
• The A.P.E. (awareness, posture, and emotion) framework for recognizing body signals
• The “feather, brick, dump truck” phenomenon
• The concept of emotional debt and how to release it
• The competitive advantage of feeling emotions

Jonny’s five-week boot camp, Nervous System Mastery, will equip you with evidence-backed protocols to cultivate greater calm and agency over your internal state. Learn to rewire maladaptive stress responses and improve your sleep (use code LENNY for $250 discount). Apply here.

Some takeaways:

  1. To alleviate nervousness and anxiety, use a “bottom-up” approach, including techniques such as controlled breathing, to influence the body’s physiology. By focusing on physiological changes first, a positive cascade effect can impact thoughts and feelings.

  2. To calm your nervous system, breathe into your stomach and ensure that the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. One example is to inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for four counts, and then exhale slowly through your nose for eight counts. In doing so, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a calming effect on the body and mind.

  3. Humming can further enhance the calming effect. After the deep breathing exercises, try humming through your nose during the exhale. This not only aids in relaxation but also has potential benefits like releasing nitric oxide and reducing eye tension.

  4. To excite your nervous system, breathe into your upper chest in a shallow and rapid manner. In doing so, you activate the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase in adrenaline and cortisol.

  5. Interoception, described as the sixth sense, is our ability to sense and feel our internal landscape, including aspects like breath, tension, moods, and emotions. Similar to training your flavor palate as a chef, you can train your interoceptive palate to become more aware of internal sensations. By doing so, you increase your ability to notice early warning signs of stress or anxiety. The key is to catch subtle changes in your body early on and engage in practices that help manage stress before it escalates. This heightened self-awareness can lead to better decision-making and improved overall well-being.

  6. It’s much harder to execute calming techniques without practice, especially in challenging moments when you need it most. You can ensure your tools are sharp and ready by practicing breathwork or somatics for 10 to 15 minutes each day for a week.

  7. We all need to improve our ability to recognize early signs of burnout. Emotional debt accumulates gradually and, if left unaddressed, can eventually lead to a health crisis. The earlier you become aware of how and why you are accruing emotional debt, the sooner you can start managing it and prevent burnout.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and YouTube.

Where to find Jonny Miller:

• X: https://twitter.com/jonnym1ller

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonnym1ller/

• Website: https://www.jonnymiller.co/

• Podcast: podcast.curioushumans.com 

• Email: jonny@curioushumans.com

• Course: https://nsmastery.com/lenny

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• X: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Jonny’s background

(07:19) The bottom-up approach to nervousness and anxiety

(09:42) The power of breath in changing states

(11:47) The concept of state over story

(13:56) Personal experiences with nervousness

(15:01) Breathing exercises to calm you down

(20:40) The “espresso” breath exercise to give you energy

(25:44) Interoception and the A.P.E. framework

(34:47) The “feather, brick, dump truck” phenomenon

(37:40) Recognizing emotional debt and avoiding burnout

(40:47) Using somatic-oriented therapy for healing

(45:26) Telltale signs of emotional debt

(48:13) The competitive advantage of “feeling the feels”

(50:20) Advice for people overwhelmed by stimuli

(52:36) The NSDR (non-sleep deep rest) practice for emotional release

(55:38) Daily practices for emotional well-being

(58:23) Thoughts on meditation

(01:01:26) The Body Keeps the Score

(01:01:58) Contrarian corner

(01:04:43) Lightning round

Jonny’s If [This] Then [Breathe] Recipes:

• If [overwhelmed], then [hum]

• If [anxious], then [breath of calm]

• If [lethargic], then [espresso breath]


• The Operating Manual for Your Nervous System: https://every.to/p/the-operating-manual-for-your-nervous-system

• Afferent vs. Efferent Neurons: https://www.osmosis.org/answers/afferent-vs-efferent-neurons

• Insular cortex: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insular_cortex

• Jonny’s TED Talk, “The gifts of grief”: https://www.ted.com/talks/jonny_miller_the_gifts_of_grief/details

• Humming (Simple Bhramari Pranayama) as a Stress Buster: A Holter-Based Study to Analyze Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Parameters During Bhramari, Physical Activity, Emotional Stress, and Sleep: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10182780/

• 14-Minute Guided NSDR (non-sleep deep rest) practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjXX2c72fYY

• Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety | Dr. Andrew Huberman on the Physiological Sigh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSZKIupBUuc

• Interoception: the hidden sense that shapes well-being: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/aug/15/the-hidden-sense-shaping-your-wellbeing-interoception

• Exteroception: https://dictionary.apa.org/exteroception

• Interoceptive Awareness and ADHD: https://chadd.org/adhd-news/adhd-news-adults/interoceptive-awareness-and-adhd/

• Childhood Trauma Affects Stress-Related Interoceptive Accuracy: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6813623/

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: How Risk Taking Transforms Us, Body and Mind: https://www.amazon.com/Hour-Between-Dog-Wolf-Transforms/dp/0143123408

• Somatic Experiencing: https://www.somaticexperiencing.com/

• Hakomi Institute: https://hakomiinstitute.com/

• Decisions and Desire (about Antonio Damasio’s work): https://hbr.org/2006/01/decisions-and-desire

• When enough is enough | Andy Johns (ex-FB, Twitter, Quora): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/when-enough-is-enough-andy-johns-ex-fb-twitter-quora/

• What Is Yoga Nidra?: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-yoga-nidra

• Becoming Fully Yourself, What AI Wants, Family Rituals & Rites of Passage, with Kevin Kelly: https://podcast.curioushumans.com/episodes/becoming-fully-yourself-what-ai-wants-rites-of-passage-with-kevin-kelly

• Tim Ferriss: https://tim.blog/

• The Power of Sensations: Intermediate’s Vipassana Body Scan: https://insighttimer.com/carola.ananda/guided-meditations/the-power-of-sensations-intermediates-vipassana-body-scan-meditation

• Vipassana Meditation: https://www.dhamma.org/en/index

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma: https://www.amazon.com/Body-Keeps-Score-Healing-Trauma/dp/0670785938

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: https://www.amazon.com/Waking-Tiger-Healing-Peter-Levine/dp/155643233X

Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words: https://www.themarginalian.org/2015/04/29/david-whyte-consolations-words/

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success: https://www.amazon.com/15-Commitments-Conscious-Leadership-Sustainable/dp/0990976904/

• The Conscious Leadership Group: https://conscious.is/

Recapture the Rapture: Rethinking God, Sex, and Death in a World That’s Lost Its Mind: https://www.amazon.com/Recapture-Rapture-Rethinking-Death-World/dp/0062905465

Kubo and the Two Strings on Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Kubo-Two-Strings-Charlize-Theron/dp/B01K5BSWX0

Wolfwalkers on AppleTV+: https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/wolfwalkers/umc.cmc.amuoq00hqelfi98j0gvg641x

Scavengers Reign on Max: https://www.max.com/shows/scavengers-reign/50c8ce6d-088c-42d9-9147-d1b19b1289d4

• Jerry Colonna on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jerry-colonna-reboot/

• Ra Optics “Sunset” blue-light blockers: https://raoptics.com/collections/night-lenses

• Nurosym vagal stimulation device: https://my.nurosym.com/vns1564/

• Pulsetto vagal stimulation device: https://pulsetto.tech/new-year/?gc_id=20124962116&h_ad_id=686249897188&gad_source=1

• Apollo vagus nerve stimulator: https://apolloneuro.com/products/apollo-wearable

Additional research:

• Cellular allostatic load is linked to increased energy expenditure and accelerated biological aging: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453023003001

• Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093/full

• Relationship between interoception and emotion regulation: New evidence from mixed methods: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032718323723

• Out-of-the-blue panic attacks aren’t without warning: body sends signals for hour before: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21783179/

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.