The symptoms of anxiety or effects of trauma can take up a lot of mental and physical space in the body. As humans, our attention goes to these areas of pain or discomfort. This is adaptive in some ways (for instance, you need to notice pain that lets you know that you are in immediate danger), but it is problematic when the attention chronically goes to areas of unease.
Peter Levine, founder of Somatic Experiencing, talks about the idea of “resourcing” in the body as an important balance to the all-encompassing focus on traumatic experiences or anxiety. He notes the importance of being able to pendulate between the area of dysregulation and the area of resource. Finding an area of resource in the body may sound like a foreign concept, and so I have included some different ways to draw your attention to something that is resourceful:
Breath--Connecting to the breath is a common way to connect with the body and notice the feelings of ease that breathing can create. I recommend using a breath that feels good for your nervous system today. For instance, if you are feeling very anxious today, any controlled breathing exercises or exercises where you have to breathe quickly may exacerbate your symptoms. Instead, find a natural flow of breath and focus on that. For further reading, I have listed a number of suggestions for specific breathing exercises in this earlier post.
Breath Plus Movement--You can add basic movements along with the breath, or you can engage in a specific practice that pairs breath and movement, such as yoga or Tai Chi. A simple way to join breath and movement is to find a comfortable seat and bring your hands in front of your chest, like you are holding a small ball. As you inhale, let the imaginary ball expand, and your hands will move wider to hold the ball. As you exhale, the ball shrinks back down to its original size. Let the breath initiate the movements that you make.
Child’s Pose --You can move into a calming and cooling posture to connect to the body and quiet the mind. I suggest a taking a posture such as child’s pose by coming onto all fours on a comfortable surface. Next, move your hips towards your heels, using a blanket or pillow to fill the space if your hips do not rest comfortably on your heels. Your arms will straighten, and your forehead may come to the floor. If your forehead does not make contact with the floor, you can put a soft blanket, pillow, or block underneath it. Your knees can be together or spread apart. Stay in this pose and breathe until you feel ready to end it.
Connect to the Senses--You can connect to something that is pleasurable to your senses and notice that sensation in your body. There is no one way to do this, but here are some ideas:
Have a sensation box or basket at your home or work, and include several things that are pleasurable to each of the five senses (i.e., pictures of favorite places, items that are your favorite color or texture, shells, music, essential oils, mints, soft stuffed animals or fabrics, etc.).
Do mainstream breathing.
Remember a place that makes you feel calm and confident. Move through noticing elements of each of the senses in this place. Start by noticing the colors, hues, and shapes; then the sounds you can hear there; the smells and tastes; and then the textures and temperatures you can feel there. Notice the feeling this creates in the body.
Connecting to the sensation of taste could. If you are going to notice this sense, you can moderate by taking one bite of something, having a mint or piece of gum, or remembering a favorite taste.
Favorite Person or Animal--Recall a person or animal who helps you to feel resourced. Spend a few moments really noticing how you feel with that resource. You may want to look at a photograph or imagine that person or animal looking at you in an encouraging, supportive way. Stay with that recollection and notice how and where you feel the resource in your body.
These are just a few suggestions for types of body resourcing activities, so feel free to add your own to your practice. You can try out one activity a day, or you can turn to resourcing anytime you notice mild distress.