As a betrayal trauma specialist, I work with women who are undergoing very personal trauma in their most intimate relationships. Over the last few weeks, this very personal work has become universal. As a human collective, we’re experiencing worldwide, daily trauma. Everything I teach now needs to be practiced by everyone, including me.
Pretty much daily.
Last week we worked on creating safety during these uncertain times. This week we’re going to be focusing on self-regulation. To create security and feel safe, we have to stay regulated in our bodies.
So, what does that mean?
It means that at any given moment, our bodies and nervous systems are in one of several different states. We commonly refer to two of them as “Fight or Flight” or “Freeze.”
Fight or Flight is a panicked feeling, a need to escape. A feeling like being stuck in the house, and you feel like you’re coming out of your skin. You want to escape and run around the block as fast as you can. I’ve talked to a lot of women who’ve literally been (myself included) running around the neighborhood a lot the last couple of weeks.
When we “freeze” you feel like you can’t concentrate, can’t get anything done, can’t get out of bed. You feel immobilized and shut down.
Feeling anxious during a worldwide health crisis is an entirely normal reaction. And we are combining an elevated level of anxiety with dysregulated routines, crowded living spaces, working from home with the kids, and worry about our families and communities.
Now more than ever, we need to focus on staying self-regulated.
This week, I am drawing from the amazing book, Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana. It is an approach to healing that focuses on strengthening your body’s system for regulating arousal. It helps when you feel stuck in the fight-or-flight response to move into a sense of safety.
The tool I’m going to share is called Self-Touch. There are five exercises, you can use just one at a time, or you can spend 1-3 minutes doing each one in a row. Practice them with your loved ones, use them as part of your bedtime routine with your kids or with your partner.
The first Self-Touch exercise is to put your hands on your heart. Literally, just lay your hands on your body and take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling the soothing touch of your hands.
The second Self-Touch exercise is to put one hand on your face and one hand on your heart while breathing deeply. The muscles in your face and heart are all connected to your nervous system.
The third Self-Touch exercise is to put one or both hands at the base of your skull. You can also put one hand at the base of your skull and one hand on your heart. The vagus nerve hooks into the base of your skull and cranium. Breathe deeply, perhaps making your exhale longer than your inhale and just feel lovingly supported.
The Fourth Self-Touch exercise is to take your hands and cup them over your eyes. Put your fingers on your forehead and your palms over your eyes without actually touching your face.
Lastly, recall a powerful sensory moment where you felt someone else’s touch. A massage, the beach, a loving embrace, cuddling with your kids when they come in in the morning, all snugly and sweet. Try to feel into and really recall every single moment and each sensation in your body. Bring it as vividly into your memory and your experience as possible.
Use these exercises to tap into the healing power in your own hands. We are all lightworkers, and we are all healers. Everyday at 5:00 PM this week I will be LIVE on Instagram and Facebook with tips for self-regulation.
In the meantime, if you need some extra support navigating your relationship, I am here. Book a free 15-minute consultation with me here. I have actionable, easy to implement tools that help.
Until then, stay regulated.