Are You Listening to Your Body?
The first step to improving communication is to know what you are feeling in your body. Click here to view the entire article. Compliments of Huffington Post.
Your body is your clue to your emotions which then can inform you about the truth of what is going on with you. We get many messages from society that emotions, feelings, and being “needy” are the worst thing we could ever do.
For this reason, we learn how to:
- stuff what we are truly feeling
- talk ourselves out of it
- not even notice our feelings at all (until it is too late and we wind up exploding)
We get mad at our partners because they are not making us happy – but how are they supposed to make us happy? We don’t even know what will make us happy ourselves!
On top of that, you may notice that once you are really triggered – it is very hard to remember how to phrase things or how to calm yourself down.
When you get triggered, if your nervous system goes into fight or flight mode (which it often does for most of us) you will likely find yourself either:
- lashing (doing and saying things to your partner that you later regret)
- lashing in (by becoming depressed, self-deprecating, self-abusing with your words and sometimes actions, etc.).
When you get in the habit of knowing what you are feeling and sensing in your body you can head off those angry, upset and out-of-control feelings before they hit.
Think back to that last time you were upset. What happened in your body? You can refer to the body heat map above to help you identify what was going on in your body.
If you can identify what you felt in your body the last time you got upset, this is your clue. Pay attention to it the next time you get triggered.
Some common somatic responses to tension, stress, anxiety and anger are:
- clenching jaws
- clenching fists
- uncomfortable, tight or nauseous sensations in the stomach
- hunching over
- crossing arms
- breathing rapidly
- tension or tightness in the head, arms, temples, jaws, neck, shoulders, back, legs, etc.
Here are some tips on how to recognize what is going on in your body before you get triggered.
- Recall your body sensations the last time you were upset about something. (It is helpful to close your eyes and visualize, allowing the feelings to arise in your body.)
- Pay attention to tension and notice where in your body you feel the tension
- Write down what you notice and keep it in a place where you will see it.
- Make an agreement with yourself that you will pay attention to how your body reacts throughout the day & write down what you notice.
- Notice what you feel when you are happy. Where in your body? Is it warm?
If you get in the habit of noticing what is going on in your body, you will start to notice that sensation (your clue) before your interactions get ugly.
You will then be able to relax using self-soothing and self-understanding tools and exercises to calm yourself down and feel more grounded.
Here are some suggestions for self-soothing and calming. (Note: In all of these exercises it is recommended to find a comfortable place to sit where you will have a few moments to focus undisturbed.)
- There are many forms of breathing for relaxation and calming. One that has been documented to slow heart rate and reduce GSR (galvanic skin response) is to focus on a LONG, SLOW, DEEP EXHALE! Really exhale everything until you are almost coughing.
- Breathe into the areas of tension or discomfort. Imagine as you breathe in that the air is soothing and calming. Breathe that soothing and calming air into the areas of discomfort and imagine the tension dissolving and flowing out of you with the exhale.
- Breathe in a healing color. Imagine a healing color… now breathe it into every fiber of your being. Imagining it filling your heart, your belly, your head, arms, etc.
- Count your inhalations and focus on the numbers.
- Imagine a safe, healing, and relaxing place and notice all of the details in all of your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, feeling on your skin (temperature, breeze, etc.), what sensations are you experiencing in your body, what emotions are you feeling, what are you smelling or tasting (if anything).
- Try to spend several minutes on each sense, getting as much detail as possible.
- There is no right or wrong here.
- It can be a real or imagined place. A place you’ve been, want to go or have seen in a movie.
- The only caution is to make sure you have no negative associations with this place.
- Sensate focus meditation: The power of this exercise is that the more you practice it, the more you will be able to shift your attention away from those oh so easy to get stuck in, swirling, repetitive thoughts that bring your down and ruin your mood. Your attention is like a muscle that just needs to be exercised.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath.
- Focus on everything you hear, noticing slight movements in the air.
- If you notice something disturbing in the environment. This is a good time to practice letting it flow through you and to become a part of your serenity.
- Imagine a swirling, healing color & focus on the saturation of that color.
- Focus on the sensation of “aliveness” in your hands, now shift your focus to your feet, and shift again to your arms or chest.
- Notice what you can smell, if anything.
- Notice what you feel on your skin. The temperature in the room, the clothes on your body. The cushions, chair beneath you.
I recommend picking one or two of these self-soothing methods that feel good to you and practicing while you are feeling good. That will make it much easier to access when you are feeling triggered.
Good luck – and remember that any change may seem awkward at first – but with persistence and repetition, these steps will form a solid foundation for improving your communication and relationships.