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The Power of Touch: Exploring Somatic Therapy for Stress Relief

Managing stress is essential in our modern world. Everyone finds that something different works best for them. Some like to play sports, make art, or do other hobbies. However, that alone might not be enough to help you relieve all of your stress.

Somatic therapy is an excellent option. The power of touch through somatic therapy can help with releasing stored stress. So, you’ll want to learn more about it to decide if this strategy will work for you.

What is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic therapy is a practice that allows you to explore how your body handles trauma and stress. It can provide strategies that help you release unresolved trauma, which can manifest as tension and anxiety, from your body.

Somatic therapy works well for treating and managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. So, many people benefit from it.

During sessions, you’ll practice bodily awareness, making it easier to identify tense areas in your body. You’ll also learn to manage stress in healthy ways. There are plenty of exercises you can incorporate into your daily life to help yourself relax.

Touch as a Powerful Stress Relief Tool

The power of touch is present in somatic therapy. The therapist might use gentle touch to help relieve tension from your body through massage. A calming touch can help you relax and feel more comfortable processing your emotions with a clear mind. Many people feel safe and peaceful after participating in somatic therapy.

Next, touch is an excellent tool for building mind-body awareness. You’ll practice scanning your body for tense areas and try to release the stress there. You can do this by tensing and releasing your muscles or rubbing the area to help work out the stress.

How Touch Provides Stress Relief

Gentle touch causes the body to release oxytocin, the love hormone. It’s a natural chemical from the brain and has several anti-stress effects including lowering blood pressure. This hormone also can reduce anxiety and enhance your ability to bond with others.

A soft touch can activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), too, due to how your body reacts to oxytocin.

PNS slows your heart rate and relaxes you. Essentially, the PNS is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction.

PNS activation encourages your body to prepare for “rest and digest” instead. You’ll feel calmer in this state, allowing your body to return to a natural balance.

In short, gentle touches from yourself and others can help you relax. You can hug yourself right now to test out how it impacts you.

Touch-Based Somatic Techniques

Touch is also key in many somatic techniques, which you’ll practice to enhance your mind-body connection. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how touch is integral in somatic therapy:

  • Grounding: This strategy has you practice feeling present through touch. You can run your hands through cool, flowing water or focus on pushing your feet onto the floor. A somatic therapist may also touch you to help you feel more grounded and present in the moment.

  • Body scanning: You search your body for tense muscles. You’ll use touch to relax these areas.

  • Natural movements: You move in ways that feel good to you to let go of stress. These can include gentle touches, stretching, and more. Yoga and Tai Chi are some excellent options for natural moving.

  • Somatic experiencing touch (somatic touch therapy): An SE specialist uses touch to relax your nervous system, helping get you out of fight-or-flight mode. The specialist guides you through a relaxation session, after ensuring you’re comfortable and asking permission to touch you.

  • Touch with breathwork: Breathing exercises are common in somatic therapy. However, you can combine them with reassuring touches to activate the body’s “rest and digest” response.

  • Holding: You hold an item, like an ice cube or a ball, and focus on how it feels. You could also hold another person’s hand and practice staying present.

  • Posture: You practice taking note of how you sit during the day. You’ll correct your posture whenever you notice yourself slouching or sitting uncomfortably. It helps keep you attentive to your body and your needs.

Many different somatic therapy exercises incorporate touch because it can enhance bodily awareness in many people.

Benefits of Touch in Somatic Therapy for Stress Relief

Touch can help make you feel at ease, reducing anxiety and depression symptoms by causing your brain to release more oxytocin and serotonin. These natural chemicals are great mood boosters, aiding in stress relief.

Plus, you’ll also experience improved sleep quality at night, which can positively impact all areas of your life. Stress can interrupt our sleep cycles, so dealing with it in healthy ways makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. Practicing somatic therapy exercises before bed can help you prepare for a deep sleep.

Touch may even offer pain relief. You won’t be as tense, so your muscles will have a chance to relax. You’ll feel more comfortable during your day-to-day without stress keeping your muscles wound up. Touch even has a psychological effect that can help reduce pain.

Lastly, touch is effective at building up mindfulness. It helps keep you in the present moment because you’re focused on the bodily sensations happening to you. You’ll pay attention to the feeling instead of thinking about traumatic experiences.

Overall, touch is very beneficial for somatic therapy since it aids in stress relief in many different ways.

Touch in Somatic Therapy is Powerful

In conclusion, touch is useful and effective in somatic therapy. It’s present in many common somatic techniques and comes with plenty of benefits. Many people find that it works well for managing stress. 

Somatic therapy might work well for you too! You’ll want to find a certified therapist to work with. They’ll help you discover what forms of somatic therapy can help you the best. Grounding, body scanning, and somatic experiencing are all popular exercises that you’ll try as you explore this therapy form.


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