We are offering a weekly blog series with a collection of diverse and effective coping techniques and exercises that can help reduce stress, improve mental and emotional well-being, and perhaps make you even more effective in achieving your individual goals. Check back every Wednesday for the newest skill of the week. Try them all out and find what works best for you.
This week, Dr. Joey Tadie recommends a Dual Attention Stimulation/ Bilateral Stimulation exercise. Although it sounds almost too simple to work, research has shown bilateral stimulation can help induce calm, reduce stress, and enhance mindfulness. It is especially useful when fending off panic attacks or during flashbacks that can occur with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This exercise involves tapping your body on either side of your midline (think of your spine as the midline, most commonly, your shoulders or knees) in an alternating and rhythmic pattern while breathing slowly and deeply. Think about how you might drum on a bongo drum and use the palms of your hands to tap the tops of each of your thighs as you are sitting in an upright position. Breathe the entire time you do this.
You can also cross your arms across your body (almost like giving yourself a hug) and use your fingers to alternate taps on your upper arms or shoulders. This is sometimes called the “butterfly hug.” Alternate your taps back and forth with each hand tapping your body at the rate of about once per second then adjust the speed to your preference. The key is to tap in a consistent and alternating fashion, much like drumming a measured beat on a drum.
Explore options for tapping to determine what works best for you: tap continuously for several minutes at a time or tap in short sets of for 8-15 seconds, followed by a pause for a few seconds, and then resume for another 8-15 seconds repeating as needed.
Experiment with adding this skill to deep breathing or other types of relaxation exercise. Bilateral stimulation can induce calmness on its own and can also deepen any relaxing activity.