50 years of constitutional protection of the right to an abortion have been ended by the Supreme Court.
Millions of people in states across the country will soon be criminalization of abortion.
Without the freedom to seek out legal abortions, people could be forced to have unsafe pregnancies.
This has consequences for the health and well-being of pregnant people and children.
Many are grieving the loss of legal bodily autonomy as they mourn the ruling.
There are ways to feel better in the midst of difficult emotions.
According to somatic healing experts, losing what many believe to be a basic human right can result in the body reacting with defense mechanisms — from the fight or flight response to shutting down or dissociating.
These mechanisms are meant to keep you safe, but they can also prevent you from living your life.
“matic practices allow for gently removing the body’s defense mechanisms while honoring the validity of powerful emotions, providing a healthy way to feel, process, and heal.”
“This ruling directly impacts our sense of safety in the world, which is a somatic experience,” she says. “When we don’t feel safe and protected — in our country, in our homes, in our bodies — the body will respond with various forms of defense.”
She says that this defense can be many forms in the body.
The fact that millions of people are experiencing this trauma together increases the response.
Unlike individual trauma, collective trauma can spread from person to person within a community.
“The ruling of Roe v. Wade taps into what Jung would call both the personal and collective consciousness,” Bagg says. “As human beings, we’re bound by our connectivity and belonging to the human race, which means we are one nervous system responding and reacting to each other. One affects the one affects the many.”
This means that we can not heal in a vacuum. Everyone is healing in a community.
“As human beings, we’re bound by our connectivity and belonging to the human race, which means we are one nervous system responding and reacting to each other. One affects the one affects the many.”
Deborah Bagg is a person.
Millions of people are fighting to regain their right to make decisions about their bodies. Many states have enacted abortion bans.
It is important to find ways to soothe the mind and body in the wake of the overturn.
“Somatically speaking, times like this require a deep state of grounding and physical embodiment of safety in order to pass through complete chaos,” suggests Michelle Shlafman, a licensed professional counselor at Perspectives Center for Holistic Therapy.
She describes the different elements that can be involved in healing.
- Your brain is aware of how your body feels.
- Physical movement.
“Shlafman saysmatic experiencing therapy can help support the body’s nervous system even when the world around doesn’t feel safe.”
Bagg points out that community and working together to find a solution to stress, tension, and grief is important.
“It’s essential that during this time, we reach for each other,” says Bagg. “This can be through the form of dancing, yoga, Breathwork, and more.”
Bagg offers sessions that combine vocalizing pain and movement.
Pain, she explains, can become trapped in the physical body. Movement can help to let it go.
“She leads a practice online to help her community process grief. This allows us to access more of our body’s resources.”
By understanding what our bodies need in times of peace and trauma, we can better care for ourselves.
Bagg asks if you need to move faster, punch something or scream. Do you need to be held and weep, lay on the ground, and breathe?
She says that the body is the medicine to create space for all of our feelings. The more we listen to what our body needs, the better it will be.
Interested in healing through grief, trauma, and fear?
The exercises below are gentle and safe to do.
If you keep your emotions in the body, it can lead to stress and tension. You can let emotions go by physicalizing them.
Lev says that the technique is very effective in helping us make space and make room for ourselves so that we can control what we want.
Lev shares her steps for practicing.
- Notice where you feel the most intense emotion. Is it in your chest? Are you talking to your throat? Your heart? Are you holding your lower belly?
- Take slow, full breaths and focus on this area.
- “Begin to explore your feelings. Don’t worry about it being weird. What shape is the emotion? What size is it? What color is it? Does it move? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.”
- If you can keep track of every part of the sensation, you can stay with it. Get curious about it. Does this sensation have a texture? A color? Is the shape different? Is the intensity changing?
- Send yourself kindness after you have labeled and verified your feelings. You can add a touch of comfort to the practice by rubbing your heart.
- What do you want to hear from your loved one? This could be your family. Send that message to yourself. You can say it out loud.
Shake it out
After visualizing and placing your emotions within the body, you can try to physically shake them out.
Shlafman says that shaking out stress is a simple technique to allow the body to release nervous energy.
- Shake the palms of the hands to begin practicing.
- Gradually, shake the arms.
- Add in the ears. Add in the legs and shimmy the sides of the body until you feel a sensation of shaking.
Shlafman says that this usually looks like a funny dance. Individuals who feel shaky in the nervous system are encouraged to practice.
The state of equilibrium is said to be caused by the discharge of tension from the body. It may help you laugh.
Exercises to stimulate the vagus nerve
“Stimulating the vagus nerve helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress,” says Lev.
There are various ways you can stimulate this nerve, including:
“Grounding allows the body to feel deeply connected and rooted to the earth,” says Shlafman.
- Imagine your feet pressing downward, with tree roots growing and extending into the ground.
- Feel like you are in the middle of the earth. Become aware of the sensations that arise from being grounded.
- Once this experience feels vivid, you can add a helpful affirmation like, ‘I am anchored to the earth and am fully supported.’”
“Breathwork is a beautiful technique that allows the nervous system to release stuck patterns through prana, our life force energy,” explains Shlafman.
There are many ways to practice, but three are great places to start.
Begin by tuning into the breath. Allow the awareness to rest on the lungs.
“It’s qualities are not to be noticed without trying to change them. Is the breath warm and quick in the chest?”
You can repeat this practice until you feel calm.
You can also try the 4-7-8 breathing method.
Simply breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7, and repeat.
Lev also recommends diaphragmatic or deep breathing.
- To practice, breathe in for four counts and exhale for five.
- Place your hands on your body.
- As you breathe, feel the belly rising and falling. Relax on the exhale and let the belly expand.
- For 10 or more rounds, repeat.
It is possible to take back control of your emotional response to events in the world by practicing these healing techniques.
It is always a good idea to visit a licensed therapist before trying out a new practice.
Somatic practices may bring up strong emotions, especially in individuals with a history of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before trying any somatic healing techniques for the first time to ensure they’re safe for you.
While recognizing when we need support for grief and fear is important, another perspective says that these emotions can be catalysts for change.
“We talk a lot about the parasympathetic nervous system and the importance of regulating our nervous system,” says Avigail Lev, director and owner at Bay Area CBT Center. “The problem is that focusing on the parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t consider the importance of our sympathetic nervous system.”
In other words, Lev believes it’s important to allow the parasympathetic nervous system to do its work of either fighting, freezing, or running away.
She says that the fight or flight response is caused by the sympathetic nervous system.
In the case of Wade, action may be needed.
“Most people are not anxious because they have a parasympathetic nervous system problem but because they’re not completing the tasks that need to be done,” she says. “Their sympathetic nervous system is trying to move them into action, but instead they interpret it as anxiety and want to relax.”
Lev says that feelings of fear and anxiety are there for a reason. Change can be made by fear and anxiety.
“She says that if we don’t allow the fear to overwhelm us, we will move toward taking actions that matter and protect our collective. This is not the time to be relaxed. It is time to get angry, stand up, and fight for our rights.”
“This fear, if we don’t allow it to overwhelm us, will move us toward taking actions that matter … This is not the time to relax or calm down. It’s the time to get angry, stand up, and fight to get our rights back.”
Agency in your own body is a human right.
Lawmakers may not agree, but you can find a sense of safety through practices that are not political.
At the same time that you try to soothe the body and process your emotions, remember that your anger and fear can be potent energy for change.
Meg is a freelance journalist and features writer who covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle and health. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles, Reader’s Digest, Apartment Therapy, and more. T: @wordsbyMeg W: megwalters.co.uk