Anxious? Use This Hugging Exercise To Calm Down

By Dominica


Last Updated: January 17, 2021

Most of us struggle with anxiety from time to time.  Health experts state the chronic anxiety can cause a host of problems, including insomnia, depression, burnout, intestinal issues, and more.

In a world that doesn’t always feel secure, it’s easy to let anxiety get the best of you.

However, there are some easy, practical exercises that have been around for centuries that help reduce or eliminate anxiety in the moment.

Today, I’d like to share an exercise that you can use anytime you feel anxiety begin to rise in your body. Or use it daily to help you feel safer and more secure. It can help you feel more grounded and in balance mind, body, and spirit.

This particular “hug exercise” I adapted from a technique learned from Dr. Peter Levine, an expert in the fields of trauma and stress for over 40 years.

How To Do The Hug Exercise

Before you get started, I want you to think about your body as a container, as it truly is a vessel that houses not just your physical organs and systems, but your emotions too.  Keep in mind that if you’re feeling anxiety, your “system” isn’t feeling secure, so your aim is to cultivate safe feelings inside your container by giving yourself a gentle hug and “containing” any overwhelming emotions like anxiety.

You can stand or sit down.  Put your right hand under your left arm, right there under your arm pit.

  • Take your left hand and place it on your right shoulder.
  • Think of it as you giving yourself a gentle hug.
  • Slowly inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of seven.
  • Note the sensations you feel inside your body at the moment.
  • What do you feel?

You can continue to take slow, deep breaths or just breathe regularly.  Stay in this position for as long as it takes until you feel a sense of calm or a release of that anxious energy.  It may take 30 seconds or several minutes.  The key is to stay present with yourself (and all those sensations/emotions), while not judging them.

You notice, breathe, contain, relax, and give yourself a big dose of self-love, all the while bringing calmness to your nervous system.

It’s a win-win.

So, the next time you’re feeling anxious, give yourself a gentle squeeze.

On a side note, hugging someone else is also a great way to bring anxiety levels down. Choose someone you feel safe with, such as partner, friend, or family member, and embrace with a warm, gentle hug where you both relax into the hug.  Let them know ahead of time that this is what your goal is for the hug – that you’re experimenting with anxiety-reduction exercises.

In other words, ask them for their permission before you just go and hug them.
To see the self-hug exercise demonstrated, check out Peter Levine’s video.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


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