When you are working on your relationship to food or healing from an eating disorder, unfortunately anxiety will come up. Otherwise, recovery would be easy! If we can practice new, healthy ways to decrease stress & anxiety, without turning to food or disordered behaviors, we can gradually learn how to regulate our nervous system in a healthier manner and release the need for our ED.
What does somatic mean? “Soma” = body. Therefore somatic exercises involve using the body to help regulate and calm down. Using the sensory system can be very helpful for grounding and calming! Using sight (orienting), smell (essential oils), touch (soft textures, a pet’s fur), taste (a favorite flavor), and sound (calming music) are all body-based as well. Versus using mind-based techniques (like CBT), which entails using the brain. Using both body & mind modalities together can be most helpful!
1. Deep breathing
Close your eyes and take ten slow deep breaths. Focus your attention on each breath on the way in and on the way out. Breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Tense and relax different parts of your body. For example, press your feet to the ground as hard as you can for a few seconds. Release the pressure and notice how your feet feel now. You can also squeeze the arms of your chair as tightly as you can and then slowly relax and let go. You can also lay down, close your eyes, and do this with each and every body part starting from top or bottom.
3. Find a “grounding object” to hold, look at, listen to, and/or smell.
This could be a soft object such as a pillow or stuffed animal, a smooth stone you found on the beach, a picture of a beautiful scene or loved one, and/or any other object that represents safety or comfort. Notice what happens to your body as you look at or hold this object. Do you feel your shoulders release? Your breathing get a little easier? Do you feel more warm and calm?
4. Splash water on your face or place a cool wet cloth on your face.
Notice the sensations.
5. Ground your feet.
While sitting, feel the chair under you and the weight of your body and legs pressing down on it. Feel your feet pushing into the ground or floor below you. Notice the support of the floor or ground beneath you.
6. Orient to your environment.
Crane the neck and look around, and notice 5 things that are the color blue. 5 things that start with the letter “C”. Describe in detail the nearest art, picture, or painting. This essentially helps ground your nervous system and helps you neurocept to safety.
7. Use a weighted blanket.
Cozy up in a weighted blanket, especially helpful before, during, or after eating if you feel anxious.
8. Stretch your body in a way that feels comfortable to you.
You could try some simple yoga poses like child’s pose, downward dog, or a spinal twist.
9. If sunny, go outside and feel the sunshine on your body.
Feel the warmth, the glow, the sensations.
10. Put your bare feet in the grass.
Feel the temperature of the grass. Deep breathe while you ground yourself.
11. Squeeze a stress ball.
Notice what it feels like in your system to release the tension.
12. Snuggle with a pet.
Feel their fur, their warmth. Notice the sense of calm that my wash over you.
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