Having a diagnosis of Vulvodynia, Dyspareunia (painful sex), Interstitial Cystitis, or any other type of pelvic pain does the opposite of making you feel safe.
While you may feel some initial relief in finding a diagnosis, that relief can be short-lived, and followed by fear, or even panic, when your doctors tell you there’s nothing they can do.
It’s hard to feel safe in your body when it hurts and you don’t have answers.
It’s hard to feel safe in your body when you’ve been told you have to live with something that’s interfering with almost everything that is important to you… intimacy, connection, work, family, exercise, fun, and your sense of self.
And yet, finding ways to create safety both internally and externally is essential in order to relieve pain.
The Healing Power of Safety
Learning how to find peace in the midst of physical and/or emotional pain is a skill, and it’s one of the most powerful things you can learn how to do to help relieve vulvodynia, painful sex, and other types of pelvic pain.
There are several reasons for this, including the fact that feeling unsafe stimulates your already overstimulated nervous system which leads to more pain…along with anxiety, overwhelm, and depression.
Pain is a danger signal.
“Anything that changes your brain’s evaluation of danger will change pain.” ~ Lorimer Moseley
Implementing simple strategies to signal safety to your body and your brain can pay big dividends.
It’s a way to nourish and heal your nervous system that is free, and has no dangerous side effects, unlike many medications and invasive treatments you may have tried.
You don’t need a nerve block to calm an overstimulated nervous system.
3 Simple Strategies to Help Your Brain and Body Feel Safe
1. Breathe into your low belly
A few nice gentle breaths into your low belly activates the vagus nerve, which turns on the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest) response, and signals your brain that you are safe.
When you take a deep breath, relax, and expand your diaphragm, your brain and body go into healing mode.
Anytime you want to create a deeper sense of safety and peace in your body, the first thing to do is check in with your breath, notice how you’re breathing, and then gently bring your breath down into your low belly.
Slowing your breath intentionally, tells your brain that things are okay.
2. Take the pressure off
Putting pressure on yourself activates your fight or flight response and signals danger to your brain.
One of the first things I have women in my programs do is identify how they are putting pressure on themselves, so that we can begin finding ways to take that pressure off.
How have you been putting pressure on yourself – around your body, or your life?
Where are you working harder than you need to, or scaring yourself with stories about what, when and how things need to be done?
How can you start to take some of that pressure off?
Observe yourself this week and make a list of at least 5 ways you’re putting pressure on yourself – in relation to your symptoms or anything else in your life. Brainstorm 3 ways that you could begin taking that pressure off yourself.
Your body is an incredible source of safety and wisdom, but when you’re in pain or you’ve experienced past trauma, it can feel unsafe to be aware of, or live in your body.
One key to creating safety is to find your way back to your body, and to have tools to help you feel safe inside your own skin.
Overtime and with practice you can build a toolbox of resources that can help you feel safe to be mentally connected to all of your body.
Bringing your energy and awareness back into your body, especially when you’re in pain, may be uncomfortable at first, but in the end it is incredibly healing…and creates a deep sense of safety.
Two simple and powerful ways to resource are to ground and find comfort.
Grounding means feeling the connection between your body and the earth, to become aware that you live in a body and that it is always connected to and supported by the earth below you.
There are lots of ways to ground, but the simplest is to lie down and feel the support of the surface beneath you (and of course breathe). Notice the point of contact between your body and the bed, couch, or floor. Allow it to support you. Allow yourself to be supported, your body to get heavy.
There is nothing you have to do right now except breathe and be.
- Find Comfort
Another powerful way to resource, and create a sense of safety in your body is to find a place in your body where it feels safe to rest your attention.
This can be your earlobe or your elbow, or some other place that feels comfortable or neutral.
When we’re in pain we get very focused on what doesn’t feel good, and forget that there are spaces in our body that are comfortable. Finding those places gives your mind a safe place to rest and stay aware of your body at the same time. This signals safety to your brain.
All you do is scan your body, choose a comfortable or neutral spot, breathe and describe the sensations you notice there. Feel into them. Allow them to expand. Notice that you can be aware of your body and safe at the same time.
For a more in depth, step by step Finding Comfort process, check out my post, What to Do When Your Pain Flares Up.
Use these strategies regularly throughout your day to signal to your brain and body that you are safe. I really can’t overemphasize the positive impact they can have on your nervous system and pain levels over time.
It will also make it much easier to stay in your body long enough to use more advanced mind body practices, like feeling your emotions.
Creating safety is the first step to reclaiming your body, so that you can relieve vulvodynia, dyspareunia (painful sex), interstitial cystitis, and every other type of pelvic pain.
How will you create more safety in your life today?