This is Margaret with Somatic Therapy Partners. I am going to teach you a little exercise for the social nervous system; this was developed by Anna Chitty. I’ll just give you some of my ideas about when this might be helpful. The social nervous system is essentially around our face and neck because that is of course how we present ourselves to the world – our face, right? We can carry a lot of tension there just from having to smile all the time or tracking people, watching for people’s facial expressions. So, there can be a lot of tension. [It] can also be related to how we’ve been in relationships – if there’s conflict there or different confusion, those kinds of things. This is to help if you tend to be in fight or flight so there’s a lot of stress going on – so it basically will help to bring more parasympathetic. Fight or flight is more the sympathetic side of the nervous system, this is going to help with your parasympathetic relaxation but in a way that also can help you to be able to feel more present and engaged in the world. The social nervous system is sometimes also called the ventral vagal which is part of the vagus nerve – which relates to the parasympathetic and then digestion and heart and lungs all of that.
So, I’m going to show you some really simple things to do. What I would recommend is that you can watch this video all the way through just to get a sense of what we’re doing. Then if you want to replay it, you can pause it when you need to if you want a little bit more time in certain places to really practice and feel what’s going on. We are going to start with just breathing. Breathing slowly. Imagining that you’re breathing out through a straw so it kind of slows down the breathing, creates a little back pressure like this [inhales through nose and exhales through pursed lips]. You just make your lips kind of pursed like that – like you’re breathing through a straw. Nice and slow. You can do that a few times.
And then what we’re going to do is do some gentle massage to some areas that have to do with the face, especially nerves. Some nerves that have to do with one is the vagus nerve. So, you start with a little gentle massage. Right below your ear there’s a muscle there (and I’ll move my hair so you can see). Just right in here right [points to muscle area behind ear], behind the ear a little bit there’s a muscle right in here. You can just do really, really gentle circles with one or two fingers. It doesn’t need to be a lot of pressure, really super gentle. Then you can do that on the other side as well [massages similar area behind ear on other side of head]– so right where that muscle is. Just little circles.
The next place you’re going to do a little massage is right between your eyebrows [places two fingers in space between eyebrows]. Then come over, see if you can feel a little notch in there [moves fingers slightly onto eyebrow bone, over eye]. Again, you can take one finger and just do little, tiny really gentle circles in that notch. And do the other side as well. If you want to you can do them at the same time but I like to do them one at a time.
Then the next thing is come straight down from there, right on the inner part of your eyebrow, down just below your cheekbone. There’s actually a bone that’s really in the roof of your mouth – it’s called the maxilla, where your teeth join [places finger on bone]. It’s just below the cheekbone. Just do a little circle right there. Not too hard. That’s the trigeminal nerve which is one of the sensory nerves to the face; there’s one on each side. Again, you’ll do that on this side [moves finger to other side of face, same area]. And this nerve here is the vagus nerve – that innervates the intestines and it’s very much related to the parasympathetic [points to vagus nerve].
The next thing you’re going to do is come straight down from that cheek to your jaw [moves finger onto jawbone, near chin]. Just right on the bone – just do a little circle right there. Nice and gentle as long as you like. And do that on both sides [moves finger to other side of face, same area].
Alright – and then the next thing you’ll do is just do some really gentle massage to your face. Now there’s different ways you can do this – you can just stroke your face which is probably what I prefer. You can just take the flat of your hands and stroke down. You can do one side at a time: stroke your eyebrow, come down the nose, and you can do little circles again where it feels good. Sometimes the temples it feels good to do a little massage even up in this area because there’s some muscles there. Also, right between your cheekbone and your jaw there’s a muscle called the masseter – you can do a little massage there. Kind of just play with it if you want to use some lotion that’s fine too. Again, stroking feels really nice to the face. Especially like the eyebrows, right down under your eyes by the nose. And then you can hold your face. Just put your palms on your face and just let your face rest. If that’s not too much effort then you can hold your chin like this, kind of cradle your chin. Here’s what would be a lovely addition: if you can just imagine someone that you really love cradling your face like this or someone maybe that would do that when you were a child or even now. See if you can just see their eyes – see their face and how much they love you and care about you. Just holding your face with just tenderness. Then I want you to feel what you’re noticing in your body as you just hold on your face. If that gets to be tiring you can put a pillow there or you can just take your hands down.
What we’ll do next is kind of take both hands and imagine you’re cradling your heart. As you do that you can just feel your breathing, as your chest rises and falls. Just imagine you’re like tenderly holding your heart or again you can imagine someone that really loves you is doing that: really holding your heart. Or you can put one hand in your belly and just see what you notice inside.
Now if your eyes have been closed open your eyes and look around you and see if there’s something that really draws your attention. Something in the room or outside the window that really gives you pleasure or joy or helps you to feel a little bit more relaxed. Or maybe there’s a memory there. Just see if you can just look at that object or that scene and see if you can let it come to you, come into your eyes rather than reaching forward or trying too hard. Let it come into your eyes as if you’re just receiving that. Then just see what you notice in your body as you as you look at that. And then if you want to for the rest of this exercise you can close your eyes and just really check in with your body: see what you’re noticing, see what feels different, where it feels really calmer or more relaxed, how your breathing feels. Take as long as you like. And that’s the end of this exercise!
Thank you so much for listening! I hope that this helps you to help calm your system when you’re feeling a little bit overcharged. Or upset by something. Or just feel like you need something to help you ground and kind of come back into yourself and be able to engage with others in a calmer way.
Thanks for being here and we’ll see you in another video!