Calming your nervous system
One of the key jobs of therapeutic work is to help clients to be able to calm their nervous system so that their default way of being becomes one of calm, with the capacity for social engagement.
There are many ways to do this, based on waking up the parasympathetic nervous system, the part that soothes and brings us back into regulation. In today’s blog I wanted to run through some of the ways we can each intervene to manage our responses to what we are feeling, these are the ones I’ve either read research about or found to work in my own client group.
While we can’t control feelings, which are spontaneous communications from our whole system, we can respond in ways that influence our emotional state, and this can be empowering. There are many, many ways to do this, here I am listing just a few. We’re each different, so it’s all about trying them and finding out what specifically works for you, and making it your own.
1. Breathe deeply, making sure your outbreath is longer than your inbreath.
2. Breathe deeply, counting to 4 as you breathe in, holding your breath for 7 counts, then breathing out for 8 counts
3. You can also try box breathing where you breathe in for 2 counts, hold for 2 counts, out for 2 counts and hold for two counts.
4. Look up and keep looking up for a few moments while you breathe slowly, taking your attention away from your body and into where we visualise, making sensations and emotions less vivid.
5. Tap slowly (one tap a second or slower) on alternate sides of your body. You can also walk slowly to get the same effect, it’s about the side to side rhythm.
6. Give yourself a hug - right hand under your arm (holding your heart), and left hand on your right shoulder. Hold firmly as if you were hugging a scared child or animal, like you’re saying to your body ‘I’ve got you, you’re safe.’ Having a hug from someone you trust is a good one too, or stroking a pet for a while.
7. Stroke down your arms from shoulder to fingers, with a firm touch, several times.
Give different options a try, and let me know how you get on, it’s always useful to hear different experiences and share learning.