You find your body tensing. Your neck, your muscles, the rest of your body.
Step-by-step, that feeling of restlessness, unease, and irritability washing over you. Like an animal in a cage, that urge to want to move, to get away, becomes stronger with every minute.
The thing is, you’re not trapped. You’re not in a cage. You just simply feel “on edge.”
Perhaps you’ve recently returned home from work, and now you’re mulling over that unpleasant conversation with your supervisor. Maybe tension has risen between you and your partner for the past few months. Or it may be the daily stress of earning a living and taking care of your family that has ever so gradually crept up on you.
However it happened, there you are on that edge. Feeling agitated, irritable, and defensive—not at all at peace with yourself or with the world around you.
How do you step away from that edge?
How do you find peace when you feel completely overwhelmed?
Somatic Experiences Can Help to Restore Balance
Somatic Experiencing is a treatment method often used for helping people heal from trauma and chronic stress. It’s based on understanding and using the human autonomic nervous system to help naturally regulate the body and mind and restore a sense of peace.
For example, in our daily lives, we often encounter stress on a consistent basis. We also regularly deal with traumatic events, most of them small but traumatic nonetheless. Those experiences represent a threat in a sense and can activate our inborn fight-or-flight survival response.
Ideally, if there was a real threat to our lives, we’d be running or fighting to protect ourselves. In the end, having succeeded, we’d return back to a state of calm. For different reasons, we don’t always move through the complete cycle of that response. Rather, the trauma or stress can get trapped in the body. And so we eventually get stuck in an irritable, agitated state that manifests physically through tension, stiffness in posture, shallow breathing, and many other sensations.
That is where Somatic Experiencing comes in to help support the body and actually move through the blocked survival response. This re-set helps to return us to feelings of peace and relaxation, reestablishing the rhythm of our autonomic nervous system.
In treatment sessions, a therapist helps a client focus on their bodily responses to the stress or trauma, not just on the cognitive and emotional aspects of it. Through careful guidance, they help restore the body’s ability to regulate itself and achieve a healthy balance between rest and activation.
How Can You Employ Somatic Experiencing in Daily Life?
Perhaps you’re not sure if this method will truly work—or work for you.
Why not test out its power in a limited sense in your daily life. You can start with learning to become more aware of the physical sensations in your body during times of peace or relaxation, notice the spaciousness, looseness in your muscles or ease of breath. Simply being mindful of these sensations can already help reduce your stress.
However, going a bit further, you can also learn how to use some simple techniques based on somatic experiencing therapy to help you calm your autonomic nervous system and regain balance and peace. Next time you feel stressed out and on edge…
Balance your weight evenly over your feet
It may seem like a simple thing, but it can have a wonderfully calming and centering effect. Just stand with your body’s weight balanced directly over your feet. Breathe and allow your body to relax into the comfort of that stance. You’re completely centered and secure, at peace.
Release tension in your neck
The neck is often the first thing that tightens on your body when you become stressed and overwhelmed. As you’re standing with your whole body in perfectly centered balance, focus on the tightness of your neck, particularly where your head meets your spine. Now, straighten your pose and extend your neck upward, elongating it. Then slowly turn your head from one side to the other as you breathe and allow the muscles to release their tension.
Use your hands
If you ever had a therapeutic massage, you know how healing hands can be. But it’s not just about someone else using manipulation of soft tissue to help you relax and calm down. Your own hands can be healing as well. If you feel your stomach turning due to stress or agitation, put your hands on it. And just leave them there as you breathe slowly in and out. The simple touch of your hands can calm your nervous system.
If you would like to know about how we use Somatic Experiencing at Changes Counseling & Wellness Center, please feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to attend to your needs and help you find peace in your life.