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Body Scanning: Learning how to reduce anxiety and improve resiliency

When experiencing uncomfortable sensations in the body what do you do?  Do you ignore them?  Do you try and distract yourself from what you are feeling?  Or do you stop and sit still to understand what is going on within yourself?

Most of the time it is hard to stop and take a moment to check in with sensations and emotions because life is just too busy. There are so many obligations and distractions that keep you moving from place to place without a moment to catch your breath.

body pain

But also stopping to learn more about the physical sensations you feel in your body can be scary.  If you experience persistent pain, then the last thing you want to do is give it more attention.  Instead, you would much rather distract yourself or take pain medication to dull the pain as much as possible.

Does this sound like you?

What if I told you that those uncomfortable sensations happening within the body is its way of trying to communicate what it needs most.

Are you holding a lot of tension in your shoulders?  I know when this happens to me, it means that I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  What does shoulder tension mean for you?

What do you think your body is trying to tell you in that moment?

When checking in with your breathing, are you taking in deep-belly breaths or short and shallow breaths? Which one is it, and what do you think it means?

Just thinking of these two examples is a great way to check in with your body and tune into what it is trying to tell you.  Hopefully with these two examples you can see how this body scan process does not have to be scary.  It also does not have to take a lot of time.  All you need is five minutes and a quiet place to sit and not be disturbed.

Body Scanning Exercise

So in this quiet space, take a moment to check in with your body.  What do you feel?  Do you feel tightness, pressure, tingling or warmth?  And with these different sensations, where are they happening in your body? Is it all over your body, or in specific areas?  Is there a tingling feeling in your chest, pressure on your shoulders and some warmth on your back?

body scan anxious more calm

Taking note of all these sensations and observing them with curiosity makes this a less scary process.

There is nothing good, bad or indifferent with whatever you experience.  It is simply an opportunity to check in with yourself.

In noticing what you are feeling, are these sensations moving from one area of your body to another, or are they staying in specific areas? Do you feel them becoming more intense or more subtle?

Again, you are an observer in this moment taking note of what you feel from a place of being curious and without judgement.

Maybe you will have different emotions come to the surface and that it okay too.  These pieces of information can help inform you of what it is you need in the moment to take care of you.

body pain daniela paolone anxiety

Taking the time to check in with yourself in this way does not have to be intimidating.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, but actually setting some time aside for this body scan exercise can lead to long-lasting benefits.

Some of these benefits include greater self-compassion, patience, and understanding within the self.  Also by tuning into what you are feeling, this is reinforcing that no matter what sensations you experience, that you are safe.  With continued practice this helps to reinforce the feeling of safety, so that you become more resilient and feel less stressed and anxious with whatever comes your way.

Daniela Paolone

Daniela Paolone

Daniela Paolone LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Westlake Village Counseling in Westlake Village, California. She helps those working through pain, illness, depression and anxiety either in the office or through online counseling which is done using a secure platform to ensure client confidentiality. Using education, helpful resources, unconditional support and understanding, she strives to help people transform their pain into power so that they can live their best lives! For more information please visit the homepage

8 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Cush, LCPC on August 5, 2017 at 6:03 am

    Great post! thanks for sharing this important practice!

    • Daniela Paolone on August 8, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you Elizabeth for your feedback! Glad you liked this post 🙂

  2. Emily Yi on August 6, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Love it! Shared it on my Facebook page 🙂

    • Daniela Paolone on August 8, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Thank you Emily for sharing. Appreciate your feedback!

  3. Robert Hammel on August 8, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Great post. The mind body connection is a strong one.

    • Daniela Paolone on August 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      yes absolutely Robert. Thanks for reading and sharing this post!

  4. Chris on December 1, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Love body scans. It’s so important to get into our bodies and be curious about what we are experiencing.

    • Daniela Paolone on December 1, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Yes absolutely! It can be a really powerful exercise that over time can really help us to be more in tune with how we feel physically and emotionally. It’s one of my favorite approaches to use.

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