Self-soothe.

Self-soothe.

We are emotional beings that think every once in a while, not thinking beings that feel every once in a while.

After the daily expressive writing exercise, take ten minutes or more to self-soothe. Self-soothing may be done anytime during the day as well, whenever you feel you need it. The following practices soothe and strengthen the nervous system. The more time you spend in parasympathetic mode (rest and digest) versus fight or flight (sympathetic), the more resilient you become.

When you have a glass overflowing with repressed emotions, most likely, meditation, mindfulness, yoga alone do not achieve the desired results as the root issue is not addressed – the repressed emotions. The repressed emotions, the cause behind the pain, need to be released to get the desired benefits from spiritual practice.

Freud called this shadow work. A house without a foundation is no house.

  • After journaling, your nervous system may be a little wound up from your practice and perhaps, you feel emotional, sad, angry, shamed or joyful.
  • Self-soothing whilst working through all of this is really important – both after a practice like journaling, but also in general as you navigate this new world of having to feel the crap you never wanted to feel. Soothing yourself is a great way to not only balance and ground yourself after the emotional work, but it’s just as important to soothe the fear in your mind and turn down the anxiety to allow your brain to let go of the over practiced fear focus and flare response that comes with having chronic stress illness issues.

1. Heart-Focused Breathing

The most recommended practice is heart-focused breathing to balance heart rate variability (scientific indicator of stress):

A. Heart Focus: Focus your attention on your heart area. Breathe in through your nose for a count to six (or more) and breathe out through your mouth for a count to six (or more). You may find that placing your hand over your heart helps you maintain your focus there.

B. Heart Breathing: Now imagine while breathing that you’re doing it through your heart. Picture yourself slowly breathing in and slowly breathing out through your heart area.

C. Maintaining your focus and breathing through the heart area leads you naturally into a state of ease (parasympathetic nervous system, rest and repair).
The scientific term for this simple and quick tool is psychophysiological coherence.

Physiological Coherence

“Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation,” according to HeartMath Institute Research Director Dr. Rollin McCraty. “When the physiological coherence mode is driven by a positive emotional state, we call it psychophysiological coherence.” – Source Heartmath Insitute

2. Voo Sound

Voo sound to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system with the vagus nerve, and as such enter a deeply relaxed state where rest and repair are warranted. Peter Levine, probably the world’s most famous trauma expert discovered the Voo sound.

A. Get seated

Find a place to sit where you can rest. Place your feet on the floor and rest comfortably in your chair. Close your eyes.

B. Notice your breath.

Begin to rest into your breath. Just notice each breath as it comes in and out. Just notice.

C. Inhale into your belly

Now, begin to allow yourself to take a deep slow breath in through your nose and fill your belly with air. Side note: Be sure you are truly breathing into your belly and not your chest. You will know you are belly breathing if you breathe in and your shoulders don’t keep moving up and down while you breathe.

D. Breath out with “VOO.”

On the out breath, allow yourself to make a deep fog horn sound with the word “voo”, for as long as you can comfortably exhale, the longer the better. Allow the sound to vibrate and resonate in your chest, arms, belly. Feel and enjoy the deep vibrations the “voo” sound provides.

E. Repeat the breath cycles.

Continue cycles for up to ten minutes or as long as you are enjoying the breath cycles. We know that 3-5 minutes of breathing can actually change your oxygen levels in your blood and begin to stimulate positive changes in your neurochemistry.

3. Havening

Havening, is alternative therapy developed by Dr. Ronald Ruden MD Ph.D; it relies on “amygdala depotentiation” that can help people mental anguish, particularly those suffering with trauma, phobias, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. It disconnects an emotion from a stressful memory. Havening may help soothe after writing or being triggered by a particularly negative experience or trauma.

4. Somatic Tracking

Somatic tracking teaches your brain to reinterpret signals from your body through a lens of safety, thus deactivating pain. Neuroscientists have found that mindfully attending to our bodily sensations can actually shrink the “fight or flight” center of our brains and as such pain. Furthermore, this practice enables us to have better control over our brains’ processing of pain and emotions. Somatic Tracking is the most important component of overcoming TMS/stress illness pain. When you attend to your physical sensations mindfully – without fear, without judgment, and without motive – not only are you communicating safety, you’re giving yourself the message that you deserve to be treated in a loving way.

5. Other Ways

There are many other ways to self-soothe. Meditate, breathwork, yoga, listen to music, cuddle your pets, sit in silence etc. to name a few others. However, for a powerful reset into a rest and repair state, try some one of the other of the above listed.

INFO: Stress and the nervous system

The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), also called the anabolic, or rest, repair and rebuild nervous system, is responsible for digestion, elimination, and regulating repair of the body. The PNS also stimulates immune function at night during sleep and PNS function is closely linked to the timing and release of many key immune hormones and specialized immune messengers.

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is often called the “fight or flight” nervous system because the SNS prepares the body to fight or to flee from danger. When the SNS becomes the dominant branch of the nervous system, blood is shunted away from the internal organs and into the muscles and periphery of the body to facilitate action. The SNS is also referred to as the catabolic nervous system because when it is active, there is increased utilization of many nutrients and hormones and also greater tissue destruction is generally taking place. It is important to realize that when the SNS is dominant, the functions of the PNS are proportionately shut down. If this happens too frequently, many vital SNS functions become labored and vital PNS functions are relatively inhibited.

Stress is, without a doubt, a major player in a variety of health problems—including anxiety, depression, to cardiovascular disease to IBS or even Tinnitus. So what’s the best approach to combat the epidemic of chronic stress?

Here’s where Heart Rate Variability (HRV) comes into play. Heart rate variability (HRV) is the beat-to-beat change of the heart and a measure of the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS). The ANS has two main branches. The sympathetic nervous system that controls fight or flight. Think of this as the gas pedal in your car. It will speed up your heart rate or increase sweat. The parasympathetic nervous system is the brake. It helps you to rest and digest or feed and breed. It will slow down your heart rate. If you are hunting, for example, the sympathetic nervous system permits you to be attentive and focused. But when eating, you want to turn that off so that the nutrients can be absorbed. The parasympathetic nervous system helps you do that and also sleep, so you can recharge your batteries.

Imagine for a moment that instead of the PNS spending most of the time in the body’s driver’s seat, the SNS were running the show. Instead of a body in a generally relaxed state; digesting well, pumping blood via low pressure, with a heart rate that only speeds up when needed, you have a body existing in a perpetually hyper-aroused state. Always exhausted but never able to sleep. Heart racing, but unable to physically exert. Wanting to have an orgasm, but unable to become sexually aroused. Such is the nature of SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE.

Most people in the West are too revved up. There is too much gas or sympathetic nervous system. It is part of the reason that we have trouble sleeping and stress-related health issues. It also explains digestive issues as the SNS is still active when we eat and digest.

A low HRV represents too much stress in the system. A high HRV, a flexibility of the nervous system and a potentially optimal response to stress. Our emotional state impacts HRV. HRV patterns shift with different emotions. Positive emotions show a smooth pattern in heart rate. Stress or frustration show a more choppy pattern.

Heart-focused breathing is essential in balancing and training a nervous system that that spends too much time in fight or flight. The more time we spend in a coherent, parasympathetic state, the more resilient we become.

The Heartmath Institute has done groundbreaking research on the intelligence of the heart, the importance of heart-focused breathing and offer a variety of devices to track the HRV. Heartmath video

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