This post is part of the Reduce Overwhelm & Anxiety Series.
Everyone experiences anxiety or a sense of overwhelm from time to time. This can be especially true for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), who can become overstimulated more easily due to a more “finely-tuned” nervous system. Additionally, folks with PTSD or complex trauma can feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially when triggered or due to being hyper-alert. This series will include tools and techniques that I often explain and practice with my clients to support them in settling their nervous system, increasing relaxation, and feeling more grounded, calm and present. Each post in the series will have one or a few strategies to practice. If used regularly, it can support you in better managing your emotions and quieting your mind.
One strategy often used in trauma work is an imaginal exercise for creating a sense of calm and relaxation. This technique has been called calm place, peaceful place, safe place, etc. I personally do not like the term safe space in my work with clients. Since, although we would hope for someone to create a sense of safety, this feeling is not accessible to all, especially if having experienced trauma. Thus, the technique is less effective and in some cases triggering. The method works to connect with feelings of peace and relaxation through connecting with memories and/or using your imagination.
Visualize with your Imagination
If you can, think of a time that you felt most calm and relaxed; make sure the memory is not associated with any negative material/memories. Where were you? Can you pull up the details of the memory? What do you see? Do you hear sounds? What do you feel? What smells are there? Notice how you feel in your body as you focus on this memory. What part of your body do you feel most relaxed, comfortable or at ease? Now, imagine that sensation spreading all through your body.
If you have a hard time finding a memory, create a place completely from your imagination or that you’ve seen before, that seems relaxing. This place maybe a location from TV, a movie or a book. Add or remove things from it to make it the most comfortable to you. The beauty of this exercise is you can adapt it however you see fit. Then utilize the questions above to enhance your connection to the senses and sensations.
You can access this image or memory any time you need to connect with feelings of calm and relaxation. Practice it when you don’t need it, to enhance your ability to experience the feelings. Keep in mind, the more you practice it, the easier it will get and the more quickly you will be able to get in touch with those feelings.
If you find the need for additional support in developing tools for dealing with your anxiety or overwhelm, therapy can help you in increasing coping skills and improving self-awareness. Contact me and we can explore therapy options for creating more stabilization in better managing trauma or stress.