Jun 02

Breathe – Relax – Sense Exercise

Most trauma survivors spend an inordinate amount of time in their head, and often in a negative way. Thinking unless focused on a task often defaults to negative self-talk which reinforces and can exacerbate tension in the body and unwanted physical symptoms. This perpetuates a state of dysregulation of the nervous system – stuck in either high-anxiety or exhaustion and depression.

This is a simple exercise that cultivates the state of relaxed alertness which feels better and is conducive to healing. The goal over time is to have this become your default setting more often.  The breathing portion helps with aliveness and being alert by oxygenating the body and brain. The relaxing segment helps with calmness and releasing tension, and the sensing facilitates greater connection to the body and senses.

This can be done either as a seated and focused practice or on-the-fly throughout the day. Some people like to adopt the use of triggers as reminders to practice. Choosing something like transitions as a trigger is effective. Examples of transitions could be every time you open a door; this could include the door to your car, your house, your office, or a store. So, every time you open a door you’re reminded to practice the exercise.

The exercise:

Breathe in. Place your attention on your breath while you inhale through your nose. Try not to alter your breathing, but to have it be a natural breath. It’s difficult not to alter the breath while paying attention to it, so go easy on yourself. You’re looking to just do the practice, not striving for perfection.

Relax on the out breath. Let go of any tension as you exhale. For many people there might be tension in the shoulders, jaw, diaphragm, or arms. It may help to consciously drop the shoulders a bit as you relax on the exhale.

Sense with whichever senses you like. It can be any one or more of the basic five: Sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. There are others that can be used, but keep it simple in the beginning. The point is to engage your body by placing your attention of the senses. To start off you may want to pick two senses that seem the easiest for you to perceive with. To clarify, the sense of touch as used here means perceiving kinesthetically, which may be the pressure of objects against your body (feet on the ground, rear in a chair), or a breeze on your skin, or warmth for example.

The exercise can be done in one rotation of Breathe, Relax, and Sense which may take a few seconds. Alternatively you can do a series of rotations and take several minutes. It’s best to not make it longer and difficult, but to keep it easy and fun so that you’ll keep doing it.

Besides calming and regulating of the nervous system you’ll likely notice yourself becoming more present-moment focused, and you may experience all of your senses becoming more acute. This is a great exercise for calming a racing mind too.

Let me know if you liked this article – especially if you tried the exercise. Contact me (LINK) if I can support you in any way!


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