Making Self Care a Lifestyle: Dual Attention Stimulus/Bilateral Stimulation
This weekly blog series offers a collection of diverse and effective coping techniques that can reduce stress, improve mental and emotional well-being, and perhaps make you even more effective in achieving your individual goals. Check back every Monday morning for the newest skill of the week.
“Although it sounds almost too simple to work, research has shown bilateral stimulation can help induce calmness, 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.” ~ Dr. Joey Tadie
Dual Attention Stimulation/ Bilateral Stimulation
This exercise involves tapping your body on either side of your mid-line (think of your spine as the mid-line) 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 palms to alternate taps on your upper arms. 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 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.
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