Saturday, 25 May 2019

Meditation for Self-Soothing When Upset

Meditation for Self-Soothing

“Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook: Building Relationships with Yourself and Others”

by David S. Narang Ph.D

Meditation for Self-Soothing When Upset. Useful Tips

Read this first portion for context if you are not upset right now. If you are upset right now, move to the next section of this activity. A crucial task for someone serving as a secure base for you is to help soothe you when you are upset. This section of the book is about helping you become your own secure base, so this activity will help you build skills to soothe yourself more effectively. When you are mildly upset, it is often great to simply blow it off when you are able, and you can talk yourself down quickly (e.g., “It’s okay, I’ll be all right,” or “He/she didn’t really mean what he/she said,” or “He/she did mean what he/she said, but I am okay, and I think the best way to respond is to…”).

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. However, when you are very upset, you must be there for yourself in a stronger manner. This is extremely important in becoming securely attached to yourself (again, as a foundation for building that security of relationships with others in your life). If you are extremely upset, you must avoid blaming or shaming yourself for being upset, and you should avoid lecturing yourself about why you ought to not be upset. You also should release focus on blaming others, as this is a time to be focused internally, upon yourself. This is a very important time in which you must try to feel empathy for yourself that you are uncomfortable and in pain.

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. If you cannot immediately solve the problem causing your distress in a healthy way, then you need to care for yourself by calming down enough so that you can tolerate the amount of feeling that remains. When you are emotionally aroused, you can have a difficult time thinking clearly. In particular, as the amygdala, a primal emotional center in the brain, initiates a chain reaction that leads to the release of stress hormones (preparing you for a ‘fight or flight’ response), you are generally not in a good position to make choices that you will be happy with later (unless of course the situation actually is one of physical life or death).

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. The amygdala is lower in the brain (i.e., it developed earlier and is more ancient) than your rational, planful cerebral cortex, and threats are processed here in this more primitive brain, including moving you to react to those threats, at times before the information even has the opportunity to register in the pre-frontal cerebral cortex. This makes sense, because in situations of actual physical danger, you need to respond with the fastest reaction time possible, without excess analysis to slow you down. Typically, however, you have a less dire situation, and it would help you make a better decision to have not only the information about your emotion but also input from the slower, planful part of your brain.

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. In order to get that planful input, you must calm the amygdala and what is called the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for preparing you for fight or flight, to provide the pre-frontal cortex the time needed for it to offer decision-making input. You need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, whose job it is to calm and slow you down. One of the most effective ways to shift activation from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system is ancient wisdom, and the method remains with us for good reasons. Simply stated, you breathe in a particular way, which helps free you from painful emotion. This method will be described in short sentences below.

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. Again, people are not good with logic and verbiage when deeply upset, so for the sake of effectiveness, we should keep instructions very brief and to the point. When children are upset, parents must learn the skill of delivering brief instructions instead of long lectures that at best the child tunes out and, at worst, escalates the child into full emotional crisis. When we are very upset, no matter our actual age, we all become children emotionally, and we should care for ourselves as such, with easy-to-follow instructions for ourselves.

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing.

Start Reading Here If You Are Upset Right Now:

Sit down in whatever posture you use for meditation (meditation for self-soothing). Count as you breathe. Count four full seconds while inhaling, pause, and count six full seconds while exhaling, pausing before inhaling again. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in helps the body to release tension. At the end of your out-breath, squeeze just a little more air out. This last squeeze is very useful in nudging the body to let go of the tension created by emotional stress. After about five minutes of focused breathing (do not stop until you feel calmer, as that is the sign you are ready to stop), talk with yourself.

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Meditation for Self-Soothing

Meditation for Self-Soothing. Start with a caring dialogue with yourself; for example, “I am hurting. That is sad. I will imagine that I am standing here rocking my infant self, rocking myself as one rocks a baby. I deserve warmth and care.” “I am hurting. What is the source of my distress?” Note: For maximum power, answer in terms of yourself versus what another person did (e.g., instead of, “He was disrespectful toward me,” it may be, “I felt as if I was being disrespected, and I felt powerless to make it stop.”). How can you best soothe this distress (e.g., more focused breathing, active problem solving if the problem is solvable, distraction of TV, bath, go for a run, call a friend, etc.), without taking reactive action in a way that causes you further chaos and distress?

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