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.
This technique comes from Somatic Experiencing theory. I have linked to the original source at the end of the post.
When overwhelmed, anxious or panicky, our nervous system fires up and we get dysregulated. Using this self-holding exercise allows for slowing down both body and mind. This technique can offer quick relief for increasing mental focus and inner peace.
A Few Tips
There are 5 steps or “holds” to follow in order. Hold the position in each step until you notice any shift, no matter how subtle (physically, emotionally, mentally or energetically). Remember to take deep breaths throughout the exercise. Closing your eyes promotes deeper connection with your inner experience. If that’s not tolerable, look down at a neutral spot and soften your gaze. When starting one of the holding positions, you can switch hands to see which feels most comfortable in each position (i.e. right hand on forehead, left hand over the heart or left hand on forehead, right hand over the heart).
5 Self-Holding Positions
1. Place one hand on either side of your head. Notice the sensations of your hands on the sides of your head. Notice the sensations between your hands.
2. Place one hand on your forehead and one hand behind your head, toward the top, in line with your forehead. Notice the sensation of your hand on your forehead. Notice the sensation of your hand on the back of your head. Notice the sensations between your hands.
3. Place one hand on your forehead and one hand over your heart. Notice the sensation of your hand on your forehead. Notice the sensation of your hand on your heart. Notice the sensations between your hands.
4. Place one hand over your heart and one hand over your belly (right over the top of your belly button). Notice the sensation of your hand on your heart. Notice the sensation of your hand on your belly. Notice the sensations between your hands.
5. Place one hand over your solar plexus (between your rib cage and your belly button) and one hand over the back of your neck (where your skull and neck meet; there should be a bit of a divot in that spot). Notice the sensation of your hand on your solar plexus. Notice the sensation of your hand on your neck. Notice the sensations between your hands.
Repeat and Practice
Go through the holds as many times as you need. Sometimes after one set you feel much more relaxed and calm. Other times it takes a few cycles. Below I’ve listed the source where I discovered this technique. It offers a visual aid to see what the holds look like.
Another similar technique is the self-hug. It can provide comfort and a way to soothe yourself. Put one arm across your chest with your hand in your opposite arm pit. Take the other arm over the top of your first arm, with your hand on the opposite shoulder/upper arm, like you are hugging yourself. Switch arms to see which position feels best. Squeeze your arms close to your body, if that feels comfortable to you.
Hopefully you have found these techniques from this post and the blog series useful and support you in managing overwhelm and anxiety. Therapy can be an additional resource if you are needing more to help you to better regulate your emotions, nervous system or navigate challenges of being an HSP or experiencing trauma. Contact me if starting therapy interests you.