Somatic quietening, relaxation and the stress response

Welcome to the fourth and final post of this stress series.

In the previous post, we looked at stress and assessed our stress levels. 

This post is going to focus on the opposite of stress, relaxation.

Have you heard of somatic quieting?

Somatic quieting is a method of relaxation that focuses on soothing and quieting your bodily sensations (or somatic sensations). When we use somatic quitting we create the opposite of the stress response and calm ourselves so, our bodies release less of the stress hormone cortisol and we reduce adrenaline secretion from the fight or flight response.

We also notice a reduction in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

How do we get to the relaxation response?

Once we are excited by stress there are several ways to trigger our relaxation response. Most often this includes a form of focused attention. This usually includes a quiet environment, focusing your attention on your breath or using guided imagery ( visualization ) and a passive attitude, whereby you do not take action but, instead you allow yourself to sink into relaxation. 

Throughout the day we face stressors and relaxants. You may be faced with heavy traffic on your way to work, a screaming child who doesn’t want to cooperate, a hug from a friend or, a letter of appreciation for a job well done. All these scenarios affect our nervous system in different ways and we should be aware of how to mediate or change the way events make us feel.

Somatic quieting exercises 

Here is an example of a somatic quieting exercise for you to try. It won’t take long, maybe 2-10 minutes depending on how long you have to spend on the exercise.

I chose the healing touch exercise because it’s quick and you can use it anytime you feel overwhelmed.

Exercise 1 – Healing touch

  • Try to centre yourself and notice how your body is feeling and your overall experience in the moment.
  • Next, place your right hand just below your left armpit, so, that you are holding the side of your chest. Place your left arm over your right hand.
  • Now, move your left hand and place it on your right shoulder (or bicep or elbow).
  • Lastly, relax for several minutes and notice the feelings in your hands (e.g. does your body feel warm, is the fabric of your shirt smooth or scratchy, can you feel your heartbeat). Do these sensations in your hands and arms feel pleasant?
  • Notice whether the rest of your body begins to calm and relax (e.g. your limbs).
  • Do you notice any change to your overall experience and bodily sensations?

Life can be stressful and overwhelming sometimes. We can often forget who we are. The next exercise encourages us to remember and connect with who we are and our best selves, so we don’t feel lost when life gets too much for us.

Exercise 2 – remember who you are 

  • First, notice your overall experience ( how does our body feel? What mood are you in?).
  • Next, recall a time when you felt most like yourself – or the person you would hope to be more of the time. Pick the most recent time.
  • Now, try to remember this time in as much detail as possible – imagine reliving it again. – take notice of what is happening in your body now as you recall the situation in your mind. Notice your five senses in the memory – what do you feel, smell, hear, taste and see?
  • Then, recall another time you felt most like yourself or, the person you would like to be. This time think of an older memory.
  • Again, remember this event in as much detail as possible – imagine reliving the memory right now, in this moment. Notice what is happening in your body as you recall the memory.
  • What do you notice now about your overall experience?

I hope you find these exercises helpful.

You can also find guided meditations on youtube which take you through relaxing visual meditations which help to relax the body.

If you have any comments put them in the box below and I will reply.

Best wishes

Laura  

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