EMDR Therapy & Somatic Experiencing
Recently I made the decision to use myself as an object of study with stress management. I figured if I'm going to suggest ways to vastly improve stress to others I might as well know how well they work when deep in the trenches. I went through a typical week that included my regular schedule and demands, and tried very hard to remain a neutral observer and watch for symptoms of how stress affected me, the signs, the triggers, and if any changes made a difference. These are my discoveries:
Noticing the signs and affects of stress. I definitely noticed somatic (physical) symptoms such as increased stomach aches, headaches, irregular sleep, mental distraction / cloudy thinking, and increased irritability. These were all symptoms I have begun to see as "normal" parts of life and I realized that stress greatly affected my self care and well-being and slowly seeped into my personal relationships. This was a significant discovery because I realized that like many people I am learning to live my life with a high amount of un-needed stress AND I was the cause of most of my stress!
The triggers of stress. I began to see that I could notice triggers easier than before because of the increased sensitivity to my somatic symptoms. As I started to "tune in" to my body, I could often foresee the need for increased self care at a much quicker pace than I had earlier recognized. The notion of just noticing these symptoms without judgement was important in uncovering many of these effects that at times I wasn't even aware of, that had even become my "norm.'
Implementing Self Care. When I began to see the increase of my physical symptoms and recognizing I was in the driver seat to how much better I can feel by instilling more self-compassion and self care, I had a sense of power. I felt more in control and less of a victim to a stressful life. Taking a few breaks throughout the day and focusing on my breathing, becoming more mindful in uncomfortable situations without judgement, and realizing heightened emotions can be short lived, were all part of my self care plan. One very important change I also incorporated was realizing some of the stress I created for myself didn't belong to me and I didn't have to "own" negative energy just because the person(s) in front of me wanted me to. Although I can offer empathy, understanding, and validation to someone in the moment, I don't have to absorb and take on what is not mine. There is so much power in owning your own stuff and gently giving back what is not yours.
Deborah is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who is passionate about helping people discover his/her own true, authentic self.