Counselling, Couples Counselling, Manage Anxiety, Mindfulness

A felt sense of safety in your body

It is not possible to shift emotional and psychological states without shifting physiological states

Gray 2018

I attended a Complex Trauma webinar yesterday with Pam Stavropoulos (contributor to Blue Knot Complex Trauma Practice Guidelines) and the main take-away (again) was the need to calm and soothe our body, until there is a ‘felt-sense’ of safety, in order to then calm our thoughts and feelings. As Pam said in the webinar, we need to change our physiological state to change our story.

Have you noticed that sometimes when you try to use your thinking to calm yourself down, your body still stays in an agitated state? Or have you noticed when you feel anxious but exercise or go for a cold swim (I highly recommend!!) your state/mood shifts and you notice a change in your thinking?

When we consciously and deliberately engage in practices that produce physical calmness we signal to the limbic brain (emotion brain) that we’re safe at a physiological level”

Church 2015

With neuroscience we are now learning so much more about the mind-body connection and how vital it is to work with both the mind and body to change the way we feel and change the way we think.

Off the top of your head what do you do now, or what did you used to do with your body that would change your physiological state and make you feel better? Was it dance, singing, being intimate/cuddles with a loved one, walking/running in nature, yoga…. what can you give yourself permission to do more of to change the way your are feeling and thinking? What is something you haven’t done for a long time that you would like to try again? What is something new that would be worth experimenting with?

Two things I am loving at the moment for changing my state is swimming in the cold and outrigger canoeing. Both require repetitive movements, being out in the cold in nature, breathing rhythmically and sharing the movement with friends and both dramatically change my state for the rest of the day…

Something I am loving from all of the somatic experiencing / sensorimotor research (polyvagal theory) is the simple movements we can now do throughout the day to calm down our body physiologically to change the way we feel/think.

My favourite by far is the self-hug or kind hand on your heart. Are you willing to experiment? Always it’s a process of playing to see what works for you…. Try this now, what happens if for a minute you press the palm of your hand onto your chest, where your heart is? Can you notice any sensations under your hand? In your heart space? Physiologically your body is experiencing the equivalent of a hug and this self-hug is releasing oxytocin and serotonin to support your body to feel a little safer and a little calmer… What would it be like if you could repeat that a few times each day? What would it be like to add some other strategies to this (e.g. saying ‘I am OK’ as you do this).

There are so many simple movements/gestures and positives that can be used to calm your body to calm your mind if you are willing to experiment.

Try these:

Or contact me on for a zoom or in person counselling session.

Hope you enjoy moving your body and playing with what works for you in calming your body down to calm your mind!

Cheers, Sara 🙂

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