What Is Somatic Experiencing? 4 Somatic Exercises To Heal From Trauma
Living with trauma can be very taxing for you. Sometimes you will feel the pressure without even knowing where the pressure is coming from. Somatic experiencing therapy is one way you can heal from the trauma.
There are so many somatic therapy techniques and exercises that you can do to free yourself from the trauma. No one deserves to struggle alone. Truma is one such thing that will eat you from inside, sometimes not even letting you know.
Our body has some physical responses to emotional trauma and somatic experiencing therapy tries to begin your healing through physical exercises. Before we jump to the exercises let’s quickly look at what somatic therapy is…
What Is Somatic Experiencing Therapy?
Somatic experiencing therapy was derived by Dr. Peter Levine. It is a body-centered approach which focuses on relieving the pain, trauma, grief and anxiety that we have stored in us. It prioritizes the mind and body connection and focuses on both physical and psychological symptoms of various mental health conditions.
Dr. Levine believed that traumatic events and experiences can disturb the normal functioning of our nervous system. This dysfunction stops you from completely processing your thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Somatic experiencing aims at identifying the bodily sensation that occurs because of some mental health condition. They then work through those bodily sensations to begin healing.
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Now that you know what somatic therapy is, let’s move on to somatic exercises and techniques that can help you heal from trauma…
The 4 Main Somatic Therapy Techniques To Heal From Trauma
Grounding exercises are done to help you bring your thoughts to the present moment. It is especially helpful for those who have frequent flashbacks or dissociation symptoms or even anxiety.
Here’s a list of grounding exercises that you can do on your own:
A. Move your body: In this you are supposed to move your body in a way that is comfortable to you. Like to dance? Start dancing or jumping or even stretching. Just move however you like. While you are moving, concentrate on how your body feels.
B. Engage in some breathwork: you can pick up any breathing technique and try to focus and control your breathing. Inhale – Hold – Exhale. Just bring all your thoughts towards your breathing, focus on your stomach, lungs and nose.
C. Hold/Release exercise: in this exercise you can choose any part of your body and apply pressure on it. Hold that pressure for a few seconds. Now slowly release that pressure. While you release the pressure, focus on how that feels. Ex: press your feet against the wall, hold, and now release.
D. Rum water over your hand: this is a ‘sensation’ game. Bring with running call water over your hands, notice how it feels from the wrist to the palms to the knuckles to your tips and nails. Now repeat the same with hot water.
2. Resourcing And Visualization
Resourcing and visualisation, as the name suggests, shifts your current focus which is of distressing memories from the past, to a safer state of mind. All you have to do here is when we begin to get flashbacks try to visualize something that can have a calming effect on you. You purposely have to resource your thoughts and visualise something soothing.
Here are a few ways you can do it…
A. Be in a safe place in your mind: it’s time to think about the time you felt safe, happy and content. Take yourself back to those days.
B. Think about people who make you feel safe: you can do this by thinking about your closest people, revisit happy memories via a photo album, etc.
Self regulation basically means to access your thoughts and emotions and slowly deviate from the emotions that put you in a distressed state of mind. In somatic experiencing therapy you do the same but via physical sensations.
Here’s how you can do it…
A. Give yourself a tight hug: cross both your arms and hold your shoulder, bend your head towards the heart. Dr. Levine believed that this will make you feel safe and contained. You can hug yourself for as long as you wish.
B. Tap/squeeze different parts of your body: this will help in releasing the tensing stored in your muscles and will make that tingling sensation go away.
4. Body Scans
Body scans are almost like active meditation, here’s how you are supposed to do it:
A. Be in a comfortable position and close your eyes
B. Start focusing on your lower body. Belong with toes, ankle, knees, and pelvis. Pay attention to how each part feels.
C. If you feel any tension at any part, take a deep breath and release the breath along with releasing the tension stored in the part of your body.
D. Repeat the same process for your upper body as well and end with focusing on your neck and head.
These 4 main techniques used in somatic therapy can be practiced at home on your own. Having said that, I would personally recommend that you visit a trained somatic therapist to learn how to practice these techniques and only then administer them on yourself.
I hope this blog helps you understand what somatic experiencing therapy is and how you can practice somatic therapy techniques on your own. Do comment and let me know about your experience with somatic therapy.
Thanks for reading.
Take care and stay safe.