Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your emotions? Have you wondered why we often feel unequipped to handle something so natural and utterly ours like our emotions? Finding inner peace can seem like a distant dream, but what if I told you that within you lies a powerful, often untapped ability. It is the art of self-regulating (self-soothing) your emotions, a skill we share with nature and once practiced naturally as children.
A lesson from nature and childhood
A fascinating YouTube video, "Polar Bear Trauma," shows how a polar bear, after experiencing stress, engages in a body shake, almost convulsive, followed by deep breaths in order to reset its nervous system. Interestingly, children display this self-soothing mechanism naturally. A child's temper tantrum, often viewed as inconvenient, is actually their way of expelling overwhelming emotions, resetting their system to a state of balance. Unfortunately, societal expectations tend to 'un-teach' this natural response. So instead of teaching us healthy ways to manage and express how we feel we are led as adults to suppress our emotions and therefore find ourselves unable to navigate emotional waters effectively.
Self-Regulation: Your Innate Power
Self-regulation (or self-soothing) is essentially the way to bring your nervous system back into balance – homeostasis. When triggered, your body experiences a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, demanding release. Without a proper outlet, these emotions can stagnate, leading to chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Which is why it’s so essential to find healthy ways to reset your nervous system. Because your feelings will find a way to express themselves. If you don't do it consciously, your body will.
Embracing Emotions: The Path to Personal Growth.
Please remember that emotions are not your enemies. They are indicators, guides and part of the human experience. The key is not to let them remain stagnant and trapped but to understand and channel them constructively. On that note I want to share with you something I learned recently. Until now I actually thought I was ‘expressing my feelings’. I mean, I talked about them, analyzed and shared them. Did it work? Well not entirely. Until recently I learned that feelings cannot be fully expressed verbally and mentally. They need to be expressed and released physically as well. Emotions are energy and are stored in the body. So If you don’t release them from your body, talking about them will never be enough. Which is why the techniques I list below are quite 'physical'.
The healing power of music
Music is a powerful tool for changing our emotional state. And there are many tracks that have the ability to calm the soul, but here I wish to share another practice. Find a place that either has good sound proof, or is located in an open space. Personally I love doing that while driving (on long open high roads or nature, not in the narrow city streets- I don’t hate city residents). So what you do is put on the track you want and feels right and sing it out loud. Like as loud and intense as possible. Forget the tonality, forget the lyrics too, if you don't know them all it’s ok. The goal here is to let it out of your system. Loud as a scream along with all the tension and emotion you carry.
Movement as medicine
Physical movement, whether it's yoga, running or even dancing, helps release built-up stress and cortisol, allowing your body and mind to relax. Personally, I feel that free dancing is the most helpful. It’s the practice where you put on a track and just let your body express itself freely without caring if you're following the exact rhythm, how you look or what exactly you're doing. It is a free burst of the body that feels healing and very liberating. As a reference I usually choose African beats with lots of drums that make me feel grounded, and when I'm pissed I go for the ‘Kiss off' by Violent Femmes. It always works. But you know what, you can do it with anything that speaks to you. Don't judge yourself. Just go for it.
EFT tapping, is an emotional release technique in which we tap with our fingers on specific points. Alternatively and very easily, make your palms into fists and start tapping your body softly or more intensely from bottom to top. It’s an excellent practice which stimulates blood flow and energy movement, helping to dissipate emotional intensity.
Apply the 2:1 breathing technique
This breathing technique, involving two quick breaths in and a longer exhale, is a quick way to alleviate stress, offering immediate relief in tense situations.
Incorporating meditation can greatly help self-soothe your emotions and nervous system. But there is a reason I left it for the end. Meditation is a mental process and as mentioned before it’s best to start with the body. Get it out of your body first, followed by a guided meditation session. You will see how much easier it will be and how much calmer you will feel after.
Your journey to emotional mastery
Adopting these practices that essentially "calm" yourself is not only about managing challenging moments. It's about cultivating a lifelong skill that will enhance your overall well-being. As you practice these methods, you will find yourself becoming more resilient, less reactive, and more in tune with your inner state as you build a deeper relationship with yourself.
Remember the path to a balanced state of mind and a peaceful heart is continuous, ever-evolving and by no means straight. But every step you take is a leap towards a healthier and calmer version of yourself.