How to Combat Anxiety – Part 5 of 5 Miniseries – Practical Ideas to Settle and Soothe – the Body
WHAT DOES ‘CONNECTING WITH OUR BODY TO SETTLE AND SOOTHE’ EVEN MEAN?
Our society has a tendency to live in our heads- we focus on our thoughts as a way to make sense of the world. We sometimes forget that below our shoulders is this incredible resource and barometer: our body.
I want to focus on how we can use our body as resource when anxious or worried thoughts are flooding in or we are feeling distressed or upset.
Connecting with the physical self can be larger movements or it can be more subtle movements. The idea of connecting to our bodies in our current environment or space can be a very grounding way to settle and soothe.
Here are some ideas you may want to try:
Taking a walk– getting up and walking around or out of the space you are currently in. This combines movement along with a change of environment, which can be very helpful.
Have a drink of water– Again movement and change of context. Drinking water disrupts our anxious thought patterns with an act of responding to our body in this very specific way. Also, our brain needs to engage other parts in order to coordinate the movement necessary to drink.
Yoga- If you are familiar with any yoga forms you can use those (e.g. child’s pose or warrior) or you can try stretching. Stretching can be light and doesn’t have to include your full body. I like to do legs up the wall for a few minutes, but this is not always an option. Something simple like a calf stretch using the wall or a shoulder stretch by bringing one arm across and in front you and holding those stretches, even for 30 seconds, can be helpful. It depends on what is accessible for you at the time.
Our brains are pretty amazing. Connecting with our imagination and our thoughts is something that people are very interested in and that scientists have been increasingly researching especially in the fields of athleticism and mindfulness.
Walking, drinking water, pushing up again a wall, squeezing your toes, yoga, can all be helpful in settling our minds and bodies
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE SUBTLE?
Maybe you are in your classroom or an area where legs up the wall stretch or getting up for a walk might not be an option in that moment ?
Try tense and release– You can do this with just about any body part. One example is “scrunch your toes”, so tensing your toes in your shoes (boots or other footwear) and holding the tension for a few seconds and then slowly (sssslllllloooooowwwwwllllllyyyyyy) releasing. You can do this a few times for it to be most effective.
You can also choose different body parts like your jaw, your fists, your shoulders, your glutes. You can work your way up or down your body by focusing on different parts. There are a lot of variations that may be options for you.
Soothing touch– This is something that can try in many different ways. The idea is finding a way to connect to your body in a way that brings some comfort.
It can be something like a self-hug (that’s right, a hug for yourself) by placing your hands on your opposite elbows and giving yourself a gentle and caring squeeze.
Butterfly hugs or butterfly taps (crossing your arms in front of you and placing your hands on the opposite upper arm and tapping gently back and forth).
Some other ideas are placing your hand on your heart or placing your hands on your upper legs if that feels ok and just taking a focused breath while you connect with your body and physical self.
You can also squeezing your muscles gently. You can do this on your arms or legs or hands. For example, if you start with your arms, use your opposite hand to gently put pressure on your other arm’s muscles and work your way up and down on that arm. Once you’ve done that, switch to the next arm.
Rocking or swaying gently– This idea may not be an option for you depending on the environment you find yourself in. If you want to try this one, try a gentle rocking or swaying – you could even be on a swing or rocking chair and this can be soothing for the body.
There you have it- in this mini series we have covered a variety of ideas you can use to settle and soothe the mind and body when you are experiencing anxious or distressing thoughts and feelings. We talked about ideas using senses, breathing, visualization and imagery, and now connecting with the body. Check the other videos/posts out to see what’s there.
We spend so much time in our heads, hopefully this will help you connect with your body in a supportive way.
Chantal Côté (she/her) is a psychologist and teen life coach living in Calgary, Alberta. After over a decade in non-profit and community mental health, Chantal started Pyramid Psychology, a practice dedicated to supporting teens – a population she is constantly amazed by. Chantal is on a mission to help 100,000 teen girls (and their parents) build bulletproof mindsets so they can weather the ups and downs of life. As part of this goal, Chantal has had the privilege of speaking at various events – virtual and live – to support teens and parents.
Outside of this passion, Chantal is often in nature, writing poetry, playing ball hockey and hanging out with her loved ones.
Each week, Chantal writes a blog article in response to issues she hears from the parents and teens she connects with. If you have something you’d like to read more on – email ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us via Instagram or Facebook.