Bilateral stimulation is one of the ways we can help orient ourselves to the present moment and support our nervous system to regulate and ground to create a deeper sense of safety within the body.
My favorite bilateral tool to use is called Tip Tap Fingers. This tool can be used to help create space in the mind from triggers and intrusive thoughts.
This tool can also help us "keep our lids on" when we feel stressed or triggered.
This bilateral brain game can be practiced in the following layers to continue to increase the mental challenge and help build more neuroplasticity in the brain. These tools can help us build resilience and learn to stay checked in with our body for a sense of safety.
Tip Tap Fingers:
This past week, I was interviewed by Hannah Levin of Heartfelt Wellbeing where I talk about the practical applications of this tools along with other Yoga for Trauma principles and practices. To see the full interview on Yoga for Trauma, you can click here.
For more trauma-informed tools, my Ethics of Trauma-Informed Care training starts on April 29th! You can choose between a live version or self-paced version with lifetime access to the recording. Click here for more information and to reserve a spot today!
As humans, we are always changing and growing.
Using bilateral stimulation is one way to help our brains build new pathways, regulate the vagus nerve and manage stress more effectively.
Bilateral healing is utilizing bilateral stimulation through the senses in a rhythmic pattern. Using something that we can hear, see or feel and allowing the brain to process and regulate more effectively.
This month I am going to be sharing a series of weekly resources on bilateral healing methods.
This week's tool is a bilateral position called The Pretzel (coined by Linda Harrison, LPCS) that when paired with deep rhythmic breathing, can help calm the nervous system and repair the MindBody connection.
For a free video of The Pretzel practice, click here.
Follow these steps to move into the body position:
It takes 2 minutes for the neurological system to respond by slowing your heart and breath, moving from the sympathetic activated part of your nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. Therefore, it is important to rest in this position for at least two minutes.
For more trauma-informed resources, you can join my Ethics of Trauma-Informed Care training on April 29th from 9-11 EST! For more information and to reserve your spot, you can click here.
We live in a chronically overstimulated world. For many of us, it is important to focus on creating time to decompress from the day in order to avoid burnout.
Often many of us are so exhausted by the end of the day, we will just collapse. If we can take a few moments to consciously decompress, we allow our nervous system a chance to complete the stress cycle and reset.
Some decompression practices include:
Not allowing the nervous system time to decompress would be the same as eating nonstop every day - our bodies wouldn’t have time to effectively filter out toxins vs. nutrients.
These decompression practices can happen during transitions throughout the day or as a conscious way to unwind in the evening.
Whatever you choose, start small.
Try to do something for just 2 minutes a day. Every week, add slowly to those practices and over time it will make a big impact on our stress and resilience.
For more trauma tips and tools, join my newsletter for free weekly resources by clicking here!
My Ethics of Trauma Informed Care virtual training is Friday, April 29th from 9-11 EST. Participants have lifetime access to the recording so you do not have to attend live to receive the 2 Ethics CEs!
For more information and to reserve your spot, click here.
As a therapist, managing my own dance with burnout is one of the most important things I can do to remain trauma-informed in my work with clients. If I am burned out, I can not provide the most quality care and space holding.
When people are depleted and burned out, it can be hard to focus, our memory can get impacted and our ability to be tuned into our body's needs can become more difficult.
One of my favorite ways to manage my burnout is to have sensory items around me during sessions with my clients. Having sensory objects to hold, see, stand on or place upon my body can help me stay attuned and focused during a session.
Sensory tools can help us “keep our lids on”, regulate our vagus nerve and manage our energy so that we do not take on the pain of others.
There are so many forms of burnout and I believe these tools can help all forms of burnout (professional, parental, caregiver, etc.) be managed more effectively.
My favorite sensory tools include:
There are pros and cons to virtual therapy, but being able to have self-care tools and resources more readily surrounding me has been a huge help to managing the intensity of space-holding during a two year pandemic.
I hope you found these tools and tips supportive on your journey. For more trauma-informed and self-care resources, my Ethics of Trauma Informed Care training on April 29th is a virtual live training that will include lifetime access to the recording if you can’t join live.
For more information and to reserve your spot, click here.
As a trauma therapist, I know the language I use with my clients is key to helping them feel safe and empowered.
Trauma informed language is all about invitation, allowing people to have freedom to explore their own experience without shame or expectation.
When we invite someone to try something with their bodies, we allow them choice and agency - two key things that are taken away when someone goes through trauma.
Making sure we give options and emphasize that if it doesn't feel right for that person's body, they can stop a practice at any time.
Somatic tools are a key component to trauma recovery but each person has their own relationship and triggers within their body so invitation and curiosity is key.
In my upcoming Ethics of Trauma Informed Care live webinar on April 29th, I will be providing a range of somatic tools and trauma informed practices to use with clients and on our own personal healing journey.
Participants will receive 2 Ethics CEs through NASW-NC and will have lifetime access to the recording if you can't attend live.
For more information on the course and to reserve your spot, you can click here.
To receive weekly free trauma informed resources and tools in my newsletter, you can click here.
Breathwork is one of my favorite tools to help clients (and myself) build resilience and recover from the effects of trauma.
Breathwork is a term used to describe any type of therapy that utilizes breathing exercises to improve mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Breathwork is a way to combine the ancient practices of yoga with modern neuroscience. It can be beneficial for people experiencing anxiety, chronic pain, depression, trauma, and anger issues, to name a few.
I believe it is important to ease people into breathing practices in phases in order to minimize triggers and increase a sense of empowerment with a new practice.
Square Breathing is a common breathing technique that can be used to help calm the nervous system and build resilience. It is used by everyone from athletes to US Navy Seals, police officers, and nurses.
Traditionally in this practice, you inhale for the count of 4, pause for 4, exhale for 4, and pause for 4.
I believe there are important factors to introducing a breathwork practice that can make it more trauma informed.
Tip #1: “Pause” vs. “Hold”
Words matter. Referring to the practice as a “pause” rather than a “hold” can have a more neutral connotation for trauma survivors.
Tip #2: Reduce the length
A Modified Square Breathing practice can include inhaling for the count of 3, pausing for 2, exhaling for 3, pausing for 2.
This modification can help to ease individuals into the practice of breath retention, which can initially feel uncomfortable, especially for beginners. For a free video of a Modified Square Breathing practice, click here.
Tip #3: Always by invitation
Inviting someone to try a breathwork practice is key for empowering an individual to make choices about what happens with their body. Reminding a client that they are in control of their own body and that they can modify or stop the practice at any time can feel empowering to a trauma survivor trying to reintegrate back into their body.
For more trauma informed tips, you can join my upcoming Ethics of Trauma Informed Care training happening on April 29th from 9-11 EST.
This will be a live virtual training and participants will receive lifetime access to the recording so you do not have to attend live to receive CEs. 2 Ethics CEs approved by NASW-NC will be included in the course.
Click here for more information and to reserve your spot today.
Orienting to the space we are in is an important tool to help stimulate our vagus nerve and calm the nervous system.
Our vagus nerve is always tracking our environment to create what’s called “neuroception” which is our ability to detect safety in our environment.
Intentionally turning our bodies and orienting to the space we are in can stimulate our vagus nerve, help us become more oriented into the present moment and help to build this neuroception and our vagal tone.
Identifying exits and parameters of the room and confirming what is behind us can help us feel more grounded, safe and present. After orienting ourselves, we can begin to take deep belly breaths to continue this calming of the nervous system.
Join me in this simple grounding and orienting practice to support the vagus nerve by clicking here to help feel safer in our bodies and our environment.
For more free resources and weekly tips to build resilience, you can join my newsletter by clicking here.
May we all love the life we live…
We live in an overstimulating world and it can be a lot sometimes, especially as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Finding ways to decompress and allow our nervous systems to “digest” is key to managing our stress and not burning out.
Often we think that zoning out on our phones or binge watching a show is “rest” but that is still requiring our nervous system to digest even more sensory input. True rest and decompression requires us to decrease the sensory input so that our nervous system can truly heal.
I like to consider the input vs output of sensory input in my day so I can better understand what I need for decompression time.
Some examples of decompression:
There are so many ways we can allow our nervous system to digest the sensory input from the day. Finding which tool will work best for you and then scheduling that time is key.
For folks with kids at home, it might be doing a short practice in the car before leaving work or before walking into the home.
We encounter stress every day so practicing these tools every day to decrease the stress response and help us move into that “rest and digest mode” of the nervous system is important to prevent burnout.
I hope you find these tips and tools supportive! For more free resources, you can join my newsletter by clicking here to receive more tools for increasing your resilience and managing stress.
May we all love the live we live...
Stimulating the vagus nerve is key to helping to calm our nervous system and manage stress more effectively.
The vagus nerve is our tenth cranial nerve, extending from its origin in the brainstem through the neck and the thorax down to the abdomen, connecting with major bodily organs.
It carries an extensive range of signals from digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa.
The vagus nerve regulates body temperature, heart rate and functioning, impacts our inflammation within the body and helps the brain get signals when we are full and should stop eating.
For folks with anxiety disorders, PTSD or autonomic disorders, a vagal nerve massage and vagal nerve stimulation may be helpful.
Vagal nerve stimulation:
A clinical treatment where a surgical device is implanted to help stimulate and regulate the vagus nerve. You can learn more about the research being done on it by going to clinicaltrials.gov
Vagal nerve massages:
This is a practice you can do at home to stimulate the vagus nerve, help calm the nervous system and build vagal tone. Essentially the vagus nerve is what helps us detect safety in our environment and with others.
Improving our vagal tone is key to helping us improve our ability to create this sense of safety. For a full video of a vagal nerve massage, click here.
There are a lot of nerve endings for the vagus nerve in the ear, which is where the practice begins. The concha is the inner part of the ear (like a conch shell) and the tragus is the flap of skin right in front of the ear. The main branch goes down behind the jaw bone and down along the large muscle in your neck, down to the throat.
This stimulation of the vagus nerve will help us build vagal tone, which is our ability to effectively respond (not over respond or under respond) to sensory input. Yoga, meditation and biofeedback are all ways to begin to build vagal tone.
For more resources and videos for building resilience and healing, as well as learn about upcoming classes, you can join my newsletter by clicking here.
May we all love the life we live...
Our bodies are the vehicles that carry us through the world, for better or worse, till death do we part.
Learning how to read the signals coming from our body is the key to knowing what tools will support us the best.
Do you notice your shoulders are up to your ears?
Try rolling the shoulders in a circle and then shaking out the arms.
Do you notice you are holding your breath and clenching your jaw?
Try taking deep belly breaths, releasing the jaw and letting the teeth part with each exhale.
Research shows we must spend at least 20 minutes a day doing something that helps us complete the stress cycle. We must do this every day because we experience stress every day.
Exercise, deep breathing, a good cry and safe physical contact are all ways to help our body complete the stress cycle and return to a state of calm.
Learning how to complete the stress cycle is key to preventing burnout and building resilience. We can not just rationalize our way out of a stress response, we must move our bodies through it. Our bodies do not speak English, they only speak body language, so we must learn to talk to it.
Moving the body is one of the most effective ways to help the stress cycle complete and our nervous system to calm down. For a free video on how to release tension through movement, click here.
For more free resources, you can join my newsletter by clicking here.
This Sunday, February 6th is my virtual Cozy Winter Workshop where you can dive into practices to build safety, manage burnout and deeply rest. Click here for more information and to reserve your spot!