Are you feeling stressed, down, frustrated or overwhelmed and can’t seem to talk yourself out of it? Many therapy strategies are “Top Down” and rely on changing your thoughts or perceptions to improve your mood, but sometimes this can feel like an uphill battle.
Here are seven strategies for “Bottom Up” regulating (for anxiety, depression, or general well-being) by tuning into your body to shift your mood. These are all things I’ve done with therapy clients, myself and my kids, so if you’re feeling silly trying any of them we’re right there with you!
Vigorous exercise- even for a minute or two
Burpees, jumping jacks, running in place, push ups or shaking your butt to your favorite dance song can help move your focus to the present, decrease cortisol and increase endorphins which can free up your head space to talk yourself down and begin to problem solve.
Flip it upside down
Safely! (and if you need to consult a doctor about what is safe for you, please do) Turn yourself upside down. You could try a wall facing handstand, draping your body over the couch, the downward facing dog yoga pose or, if you’re Simone Biles, a handstand half-tuck backflip (do not actually try this at home). Being upside down stimulates your vestibular system, which is responsible for balance, coordination, and awareness of where our body is in space. This can be calming or energizing, depending on your unique system.
Harken back to our days as sea blobs, and harness the power of cold water. You can run your hands under water, or dip your face in cold water to stimulate the mammalian diving reflex, which lowers your heart rate. If you want to go full-blown Swedish, try a cold shower, which can reduce stress levels and reduce pain and inflammation.
Eat something spicy
Your body releases endorphins and dopamine (a chemical responsible for pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation) in response to consuming capsaicin, the chemical that gives spicy food its kick.
Have a cuppa
Research shows that having a nice, relaxing cup of tea can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. Tea can be a wonderful sensory experience, you can smell it, feel the warmth and of course taste it, and as a former London resident, I could sing you a whole song about the loveliness of a cuppa.
Remember when you were a kid and you were upset or uncomfortable? What did you do with your hands or your body? Many of us have natural styles of fidgeting that we’ve abandoned as adults, but fidgeting can help us problem solve, be present in our bodies and give our emotions a release valve. So go ahead, wiggle, tap your feet, crack your knuckles, hum, pick at grass or tape, or use a fidget toy.
Give yourself a squeeze
Hug yourself, use a weighted blanket or compression garments, or lie down with cushions on top of you (again, use your good judgment and consult a doctor as needed). Being squeezed, or squeezing your muscles, helps increase blood flow and gives proprioceptive input to decrease stress.