Find safety in your body
Mama Mia… here we go again. As the second wave of Covid-19 hits Australia, it feels like we will never get back to ‘normal’ life again. This week someone said to me “it feels like I’m looking at a tsunami wave coming towards me, but there’s no point even trying to run away – you won’t make it, there is nowhere safe.” Many of my clients are suffering from anxiety and not feeling safe in their world. When the world around you is spinning, the only place you can find safety is in your body. Your body is a ‘resource’ to help you feel safe again and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Here are my favorite ways to find safety in your body:
There are approximately 200,000 sensory nerves on the soles of your feet. They sense pressure, texture, temperature, and more. Sensory nerves send chemical information to the brain on the status of the environment around you. Telling your brain whether the environment is safe or unsafe. So let’s use those nerves to tell your brain that your body is safe.
Take off your shoes and socks, feel the ground beneath your feet. Really focus your attention on what you feel beneath your feet – textures, temperature, shapes, pressure, painful bits (avoid those bindis!)
If you can go outside and touch the ground that’s brilliant. But even letting your feet contact the carpet or tiles is enough.
The messages sent to your brain will be telling your nervous system about the state of your immediate physical surroundings. Telling your brain that you are in a place of safety, bringing you into the present moment. We’re tricking your brain into focusing on the physical surroundings instead of your anxious thoughts. Helping you feel calmer and safe in your body.
Self-massage, tapping, and pummelling
Sometimes when we get anxious or feel unsafe, we mentally disconnect from our bodies. Applying gentle pressure on our sensory nerves through massage, tapping, or pummelling is a quick way to remind your brain that you have a body beneath your neck.
Starting at your feet, squeeze-and-release the sole of your foot with your fingers and thumb. Move from the pads of your toes all the way to your heel. The pressure will reawaken those sensory nerves, reminding your brain that we’re focusing on your body, not your anxious thoughts.
When you’ve finished your foot, work your way up to your calf muscle and into your upper thigh. Gently (and the emphasis is on ‘gently’ because we want you to relax) massage your leg. Perhaps using your hand to softly squeeze and release the muscles. Or maybe tapping with your fingertips or pummelling with a soft fist.
Swap to the other leg and work your way up to your thigh.
Using softly-closed fists, gently pummel your buttock muscles and your lower back.
Moving up to your belly, place the flat of your hand just below your ribcage. Take a moment to sense the warmth from your hand through your skin/clothes. Slowly circle the flat of your hand clockwise around your belly. (For the directionally-challenged of you – start below the ribcage, move your hands to the left, then down to your pubic area, over to the right, and then continue in your circle. By going in a clockwise direction, we follow the direction of your large intestine).
Bring your hand up to your breast bone, your sternum. With your fingertips gently tap up and down your sternum bone, bringing awareness to this area. This can be quite painful, so go easy on yourself.
Take one hand to your opposite arm, squeezing and releasing the muscles from your upper arm down to your hands. Hands can take a lot of pressure, so don’t be afraid to go a bit heavier here with the pressure.
Massage your opposite shoulder using the pads of your fingers. Then swap.
Squeeze and release the muscles on the back of your neck with one hand. Note. Avoid the front of your throat – there are many delicate structures here e.g. thyroid gland and blood vessels.
Use the pads of your fingers to gently tap all over your face and scalp.
You should now be able to feel all of your body. Perhaps even sense a gentle glow throughout your body.
Yoga, Pilates, and Body Psychotherapy all have one thing in common – deep diaphragmatic breathing. We can override our nervous system – press the reset button if you like – with deep diaphragmatic breathing. When we breathe deeply, the long slow exhale tells our nervous system that it can switch back into the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic state. That it is safe.
Here are some simple types of calming diaphragmatic breathing:
If you want to find out more about why we experience these physical symptoms in anxiety, have a look at my FREE e-book “Three Easy Ways to Reduce Your Anxiety”. It’s an instant download and there is a bonus video and audio recording to help you do the exercises.
I hope this guide helped you find safety in your body, and feel a whole lot less anxious.