Rather than just focusing on the neck up, therapists are incorporating bodywork by taking a more holistic approach and integrating the rest of the body! Specialized therapeutic approaches such as somatic psychotherapy utilize the mind-body connection to bring awareness to one’s body and integrate the body within the healing process.
The nervous system plays a key role in bodywork; tuning-into-your-body-can-make-you-more-resilient. Amid threat, our body goes into “fight or flight”; this serves as a protective, survival response. The sympathetic nervous system plays a key role in triggering this response whereas the parasympathetic nervous system works to calm the body’s response. Our body works hard to keep us safe, healthy, and calm! Body-based interventions can help soothe our body when our brain is sending out signals of distress. By increasing somatic intelligence, one can better understand the-stress-response and learn techniques that help regulate stress responses and contribute to overall healthiness.
BREATHING & RELAXATION
One of the first places we can focus on regulating our nervous system is through breathing by using deep abdominal breaths which are known as diaphragmatic or belly breathing. Breathing can be paired with deep sighs or humming to calm. Breathing can also be combined with soothing words or images as part of meditation and guided imagery relaxation exercises.
Check out this link for steps on how to do deep breathing exercises including diaphragmatic breathing, rib stretch breathing, and numbered breathing: https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#steps-to-do
There are many benefits-of-touch in response to reducing stress and calming the nervous system. This includes the body’s release of the hormone oxytocin which is released during activities that utilize physical touch such as hugging, massage, cuddling, and sex. Soothing activities such as petting an animal also offer these benefits. Meditation activities that incorporate touch and self-compassion such as placing one’s hand on their heart and offering kindness are other interventions that utilizes physical touch.
Use of movement and therapeutic approaches that use movement such as yoga and tai chi often combines deep breathing along with fluid rhythmical movements that help calm the nervous system. Incorporating mindfulness for “mindful movement” with activities such as walking or yoga helps relax both the mind and the body. Simple movement activities such as shifts in posture and stretching are also easy activities that you can do anywhere.
INTEGRATE ALL THREE!
Breathing/ relaxation, touch, and movement can be combined. A technique called grounding is helpful with moving through distress (especially with trauma) as it helps one feel connected to the ground/ earth. This can be paired with sensory-soothing interventions to feel fully connected and present such as physical touch and eye contact in addition to breathing.
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