Five Somatic Practices for Stress ReliefMay 20, 2023
Life can get overwhelming, leaving us feeling stressed and worn out.
We often focus on mindset-based approaches to combat stress, but there's another powerful tool we tend to overlook: our bodies.
When it comes to stress relief, two common approaches are the "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches.
The top-down approach primarily focuses on mindset, thoughts, and cognitive strategies to manage stress.
On the other hand, the bottom-up approach recognizes the vital role of the body and its physiological responses in stress reduction.
The top-down approach involves techniques such as cognitive restructuring, positive affirmations, and mindfulness meditation, which target the mind's cognitive processes.
These methods aim to reframe thoughts, manage emotions, and cultivate a more resilient mindset.
While effective for many individuals, this approach may not fully address the physical aspects of stress that manifest in the body.
The bottom-up approach, in contrast, recognizes that stress has a profound impact on the body and activates the autonomic nervous system's stress response.
This response triggers physiological changes, such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, and shallow breathing.
By directly engaging the body, the bottom-up approach aims to regulate the body's stress response and promote relaxation.
Somatic exercises and body-based modalities, such as those mentioned in this post, fall under the bottom-up approach.
These practices allow us to connect with our bodies, release physical tension, and activate the body's natural relaxation response.
By incorporating movement, breathwork, and targeted techniques, they address the physiological effects of stress, soothing the nervous system, and promoting overall well-being.
Working with the body to reduce stress is equally important because stress is not purely a mental or cognitive experience—it manifests in physical sensations and tension.
By integrating somatic exercises into our stress relief toolkit, we gain a comprehensive approach that addresses the interconnectedness of our body and mind.
This holistic perspective acknowledges that stress is not solely a psychological issue but a multifaceted experience that affects our entire being.
Here's 6 Tools to Reduce Stress Somatically ↓
- EFT Tapping: Give Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping a try. It involves gently tapping on specific acupressure points while focusing on stress or negative emotions. Research suggests that EFT tapping helps regulate your body's stress response, lowers cortisol levels, and alleviates emotional distress (Church et al., 2013). By stimulating acupressure points, tapping promotes the flow of energy and releases blockages, offering you a sense of calmness and relief.
- Yin Yoga: Explore the benefits of Yin Yoga. It's a slow-paced practice that targets the deeper layers of your body, including the fascia, ligaments, and joints. By holding passive poses for extended periods, Yin Yoga applies gentle, sustained pressure to your connective tissues. This stimulation hydrates and nourishes your fascia, enhancing flexibility and restoring its natural elasticity. As physical tension held within your body is released, you'll gradually feel your stress and tension dissipate (Gavilan et al., 2020).
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation to release physical tension and promote relaxation. It involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. Through this practice, you'll learn to identify and release muscle tension caused by stress. Studies have shown the efficacy of PMR in reducing stress and anxiety levels (Gavilan et al., 2020).
- Deep Breathing Exercises: Explore deep breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or paced respiration. By taking slow, deep breaths, you can activate your body's relaxation response and regulate the autonomic nervous system. This increases oxygen flow, slows your heart rate, and lowers blood pressure. These physiological changes promote a state of relaxation, reducing your stress and anxiety (Vlemincx et al., 2018).
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): Incorporate Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction into your routine. MBSR combines mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and gentle movement to reduce stress and enhance well-being. By practicing mindfulness, you cultivate present-moment awareness, allowing you to observe and acknowledge stress without judgment. Studies have shown that MBSR significantly reduces stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms (Khoury et al., 2015).
By trying out these somatic practices, you'll have effective tools to reduce stress and promote your overall well-being. Take the time to explore and discover the transformative effects somatic exercises can have on your physical, mental and emotional health.