When your stress levels rise and life feels too much, the body can go into shutdown, the mind can run wild and the emotions overwhelm any sense of safety, connection or ability to think. The fight, flight, freeze may go into overdrive as the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. For some, this is a regular pattern, and the sympathetic nervous system may stay in overdrive. One of the ways that support the regulation of the nervous system, especially if you are in shock or have a history of trauma, is to connect with the body, the container of this life force.
Taking Care and Feeling Safe In Times of Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of living. How we respond to stress and challenges impacts our level of suffering. These are some of the tips for Taking Care that I mention in the role play online funeral ceremony and in many of the mindfulness practices I offer. Depending upon your life circumstances some will support you more than others. Find the practices that work for you so that when you need it, you can utilise this self resource under pressure.
- Become present through awareness of the body. Practice being aware of the whole body, as it is. Start with the feet, working up through the legs, torso, front and back, the arms and hands, neck, throat and head. Noticing whether the sensations are comfortable, uncomfortable, neutral. There may be a mix of all of these as you scan the whole body. Bring curiosity to being aware. The Dharma Ocean has a series of foundational practices. Their 10 Point practice is a full body awareness practice that can be deeply relaxing. f
- Become aware of the breath – awareness of breathing in, awareness of breathing out. The space between the breaths. The fluctuations, rate and movement of breath. Breathing in, breathing out. You can join me for the free online mindfulness practices or find recordings here.
- Gently place one or both hands over your heart and offer yourself, silently or out loud, a sense of safety, soothing and care. You may want to get a sense of breathing in and out of the heart area.
- The Trauma Hold, as described by Peter Levine, is to support coming back into the ‘container of the body’ when the mind or emotions feeling overwhelming. It can help to bring a feeling of safety and care. The right hand is placed under left armpit, left hand is around the right shoulder. Just breathe here and feel into the body. I highly recommend Peter Levine’s work.
These strategies, practiced regularly, can support us to ‘befriend’ ourselves and lean into the ever present quiet presence.