As you know by now, if you have read some of my earlier blog articles about (high)sensitivity, life can be intense for those who pick up ‘absolutely everything’ and may feel obliged to react to these stimuli. Then life can become very tiring. Although there are ways to help you against over-stimulations (for example, Bach flower remedies), you can also choose to do some short and easy exercises. They will help you understand your strength and weakness better, to regain your energy and to ‘close’ the all-to-open borders between you and your environment. This, in turn, allows you to understand your strength and weakness better and use them to your benefit.
Does that sound good to you?
Then I have 3 exercises for you to try out and practice as often as you like.
I’ve practiced all 3 of them regularly and am still surprised about how effective they are. They can be used in combination or individually. Exercise 1 (‘The body scan’) is a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of haste and anxiety, and release pent-up emotions; exercise 2 ( ‘The bulletproof bubble’) helps you to get in touch with your personal boarders in the space around your body; exercise 3 (‘The favorite animal’) is a way to help you find out how you feel about yourself, what you admire and what you truly think about yourself. This knowledge can help you to become who you want to be.
Enough talking – let’s start doing!
Exercise 1: The Body scan
The body scan has slowly become more and more popular over the years. Although it may seem like a good excuse to simply lie down and do nothing it is much more than that!! Its aim is to be aware of the different regions of your body, and allow yourself to experience how each part feels, without trying to change anything. Just staying with what is there. It trains your mind to be able to move from detailed attention to a wider and more spacious awareness from one moment to the next. It usually takes about 15 – 20 minutes but, when more experienced, you can also do quick runs of 3, 5 or 10 minutes.
- You can chose to lie on the floor on a mat or you can do this sitting upright. Make sure you will not be disturbed (switch of your telephoneJ)
- Briefly tune in with your body as it is right now: are you feeling tingling, numbness, tightness or relaxation, cold or pain anywhere?
- Then begin to focus your attention at the top of your head. What do you feel there? Continue by moving your attention down the body. Make sure you don’t judge what you notice and stay in the moment as much as possible.
- With the same calm awareness, move to your forehead, to your eyes, the nose, cheeks, mouth and chin and finally the ears including any sounds that you notice coming to the ears. Be aware of the changing pattern of sensations. Move on to the neck and shoulders, the chest area, the abdomen and stomach, the place where we feel our “gut feelings”. Then stretch your awareness to the lower back, the lumber spine, the pelvis area, the hip bones, and sitting bones, genitals and groin and finally to your upper and lower arms and hands, visiting each finger.
- Leaving the torso your attention moves down into the thighs of both legs, your knees, calves and finally into both feet.
- Now take 3 deep breaths and widen your focus, filling your whole body with awareness, noticing what is present. Try and be non-judgmental of any sensations that you notice. Just being present will help you to accept your body more and thereby loose tensions and sometimes even muscle aces.
The 2. Exercise: ‘The bulletproof bubble’
This is a visualization exercise which helps you to reclaim and probably even close your borders when overstimulated. The aim is to draw a clear border between what is ‘your personal space’ and the environment around you. With this border intact you are in full command of which stimuli you let pass through to reach you and which one(s) you choose to just observe and let pass by without any effect on you. Being able to choose what affects you and what doesn’t you are in control of your own energy and can use it as you choose instead of losing it to all kinds of (petty) incidents, leaving you totally exhausted.
- Close your eyes (this can be anywhere: on the toilet, brushing your teeth or when waiting at a traffic lights thus costing no extra time).
- Imagine to look at yourself: where you stand or sit, what you wear, how do you look?
- Then picture yourself; and in front of you picture a beautiful bulletproof bubble. It looks just the way you love it, strong, fast, secure and very safe. You can picture it as you like with any color or pattern. A great part of the bubble is transparent.
- Imagine that you step into that bubble. Close it again behind you. Inside it, you are protected against stimuli from the outside world. Inside the bubble it is quiet, cozy and safe.
- Picture yourself in the bubble and say out loud or in your mind: ‘Here inside are only things, people and situations that I like. I choose what I let through and what has to say outside. Everything else has to stay outside’.
I have done this exercise myself for many years and Ii helped me a lot as a means of ‘preserving’ my energy. Also the children I have worked with find it exciting to be able to create their own ‘world’. Some create their bubble daily. It is also a wonderful exercise that children can use at school. If they suffer from the crowd and noise in their class, they can just create a magic bubble around them and rest inside
(This exercise is also integrated in one of the true stories in my children’s book manuscript)
Note: for exercises 1 and 2 holds: If you notice your mind wandering then this is perfectly natural and what minds do. Noticing your mind has wandered is a moment of awareness, then just gently guiding your mind back to the part of the body you are focusing on.
The 3. Exercise: My favorite animal
The 3st exercise is a simple ‘what – if’ exercise that is also much fun to do with friends or children. It is about accepting yourself as you are while helping you to get clear and simple insight in how you would ideally like to be. And also how you, more realistically, are. It might be a good idea to do this exercise ith another person if you do it for the first time. Then the other person can follow the steps and ask you the questions. Because once you’ve read through it and know how it works, it becomes very easy to cheat on yourself. However, if you are the person asking someone else the questions below, preferably a person who doesn’t know this exercise, it helps them to gain more insight in who they are.
If you do the exercise alone, follow through steps 1-6 and read step 7 after you have finished the first 6 steps.
- Find a spot where you are comfortable. Make contact with each other, for example, by looking in each other in the eye. When doing this alone, take a moment and focus on yourself.
- Ask simply: ‘What is your favorite animal?’ Give the other person some time to think about it, but no longer than a few seconds. It is important that the answer comes rather spontaneously. If you do this by yourself, answer yourself as honest as possible. Write the favorite animal down on a piece of paper.
- After an animal was picked, continue immediately by asking ‘And why is this your favorite animal?’. Let the other person (or yourself) name the characteristics or associations they have with that animal that make it his or her favorite. Note these answers on the piece of paper.
- Repeat step 2 with a slightly different question, this time asking: ‘What is your second favorite animal?’ and write the answer down on your piece of paper.
- Repeat step 3 with the second favorite animal.
- If you want you can take some time to talk about both animals and increase the positive feeling the person has about them. This helps to increase the positive energy that is being generated around you and can stay with you for a long period after the exercise has been finished.
- Do you wonder by now why I am so enthusiast about this exercise? In the end, it was just about naming some favorite animals.
Then look at what you have written down about the favorite animal and it’s characteristics: this is representing the ideal you, the you as you would like to be, and it also gives you all the reasons for why you would like to be like this animal. Fantastic, isn’t it”
Then look at your number two favorite animal: this is representing the you as you and others actually perceive you, including the characteristics which lead to this.
Fascinating, don’t you think?
This exercise is a simple and effective way to learn playfully about yourself, your desires and the convictions you have of yourself including how others might perceive you. Knowing this, you can more easily start doing something about it. You can either change the impression others have of you or you can actively work towards becoming more like your favorite animal. Which will in time make you feel more of a favorite to yourself by doing so.
That’s it for today. We have reheat the end of my top-3 list of favorite exercises to improve life–hopefully yours as well. I hope you have enjoyed these fun exercises and start right away putting them in to practice.
- How do you like the exercises?
- Do you have a personal favorite–and why?
- Has any one exercise helped you to regain your personal leadership in a particular situation?
I am really excited to hear about your experiences so please let me know by sending me an email or leave a comment below.
If you liked this article, mark the following date in your agenda:
‘The single most important factor for (high) sensitive people to lead a happy and fulfilled life.’ (September 28th)
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Anke Weber Smit, P.h.D. is an passionate coach and approved healer with nearly 10 years of professional experience working with children, teens, adults, and companies. Anke’s mission is helping people with recondition the past and creating their future lifes. She has experience with treating (high) sensitivity issues, eating disorders, body image, relationships with others or with yourself, psychological abuse and anxiety. Anke is a honest, warm inspirational counselor, author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others to help themselves. For more information on her services, please follow Anke’s blog or visit her on www.cocreate.com (English) or www.ankewebersmit.com (Dutch)