4 step embodied practice for overwhelm
pause. breathe. dance. repeat.
First step of the embodied practice. Your journey begins here, take a moment to stop what you’re doing.
Stop all inner and outer movement and stand quietly in the middle of your circle. Just observe what is happening in your body.
Do you feel overwhelm? What are the sensations in your body? What secrets is your heart whispering in this moment? How is your mind racing? What stories are you telling yourself? Witness with compassion and without judgement.
From this space of inner listening, take a moment to connect to your breath.
Put a hand on your belly, and if it feels good, one in your heart, and just start taking deep breaths, without having to “do” anything, just connect to the soothing quality of your breath and notice it becoming slower, deeper and feel the expansion it is creating in your body.
Start rocking your body slowly from one side to the other or from front to back with very small movements. And whenever your body has an impulse to move any of it’s parts, give it permission.
Say yes to movement. Maybe it’s a finger, maybe it’s your neck, go with small repetitive movements, and if you feel safe and want to explore more, let that movement expand.
Sometimes it feels good to just stay in a gentle rocking movement while hugging yourself, it is ok to not expand your movement but rather concentrate on the repetition of that single movement and your breath. Leaning into the rhythmic safety of repetition in movement.
Don’t have preconceived ideas of what your “dance” should look like, all is welcome here and remember, take care of your body!
Stay connected to your inner listening, your “interoception”, and whenever you feel you are reaching an overwhelm in your nervous system, let the movement slow down and come back to a gentle pause.
From this space breathe deeply, feel your body, open your eyes, see the space you are in and notice one object in the room. Keep your focus.
Stay with your breath and whenever you are ready again, let the body go into gentle movement and let it expand to whatever intensity you feel comfortable with.
Why is overwhelm bad for our bodies?
When our bodies are stressed, frightened or triggered we naturally go into a primal response of fight/flight/freeze. Our amygdala will send a distress signal to the hypothalamus and adrenal glands. This means the body is preparing to react (and defend itself) and is filled with adrenaline. We cannot live a sustainable life in this constant state so usually the body when the threat is over, activates the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate itself and calm down.
The problem arises when our nervous system continually reacts to modern-day stressors, as it learns to live in a constant state of alertness and threat.
Some symptoms of an threatened stressed body could be: racing heart, tightened neck muscle, choppy breathing, dilated pupils, cold hands, pale skin and or sweat.
It is important to learn to regulate ourselves whenever we feel we are activated. Exercises of deep breathing and mindfulness can contribute to regulate the nervous system. Embodied Conscious practices like Movement Medicine can really help you navigate this process, if you want to explore a 1:1 Movement Medicine session with me, follow the link. However, I am not a therapist nor am I specialised in trauma work.
If you are struggling with deep nervous system activation, I strongly encourage you to explore the work of Stephen Porges, who is the author of Polyvagal Theory and of Peter Levine in his Waking the Tiger book.
For serious cases do to seek a doctor’s advice. This exercise is not intended to substitute any medical treatment.
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image by daria shevtsova @ pexels.com