Centring is a range of specific techniques that can help bring you self-regulate back to a balanced state when you are feeling intense emotions, like anxiety, grief, stress, or panic. It is a process that allows you to alter how you feel.
It involves ways to alter how you feel: it can be aimed at reducing (down-regulation) or increasing (up-regulation) arousal, and used in responses to distress or eustress.
Embodiment is the practice of understanding our emotions through our bodies. It is a type of intelligence. We experience the world through our body and our senses. Our bodies give us direct access to understand and feel our emotions, as well as giving us the quickest way to change our moods and behaviours. Embodiment is what connects us to ourselves, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Distress / Eustress
We all understand distress–it’s what we feel when we have a negative experience, such as losing a job, a breakup, or even spilling coffee on your favourite white shirt. Distress causes anxiety, fear, and worry. Common symptoms are chest pain, rapid heart beat, racing thoughts, digestive issues, and insomnia.
Eustress, on the other hand, is what we feel when we have a positive experience. It’s associated with feelings of exhilaration, excitement, and motivation–getting the job, falling in love, buying a new dress that fits perfectly. However, if we try to chase eustress too much, we can fall into addictive, overindulgent behaviours that ultimately cause us harm.
Self-regulation refers to the ability to recognise our emotions and manage them accordingly. This can be up-regulation, or down-regulation. When you don’t self-regulate, you can be stuck in a fight/flight/freeze/fold mode and react impulsively. By practicing self-regulation we can develop more emotional range, and consequently more freedom and effectiveness in our choices.
We’re social animals. No matter how hard we may try, the emotions of others affect our own. Our moods and states can shift in the presence of another being, and this can be good–your incredibly supportive best friend, your snuggly cat, your loving grandmother. Or, people can have a negative effect on your mood–your constantly complaining coworker, your manipulative boyfriend, your critical mother. When we utilize embodiment in our day to day lives, we learn how to keep our centre in the presence of others, no matter how they may make us feel. This allows us to be leaders and bring out the best in others, co-regulating our emotions together.
Down-Regulation / Up-Regulation
These are two important kinds of state changes. Down-regulation means calming yourself down. Up-regulation means waking yourself up and giving yourself energy.
Embodied practices include yoga, breathwork, centering exercises and meditation. These embodied exercises allow us to examine ourselves and change our state. We can learn how to connect with ourselves and with others and learn how to up-regulate and down-regulate. An embodied practice is conscious movement with the intent to understand or shift your emotions–synchronising our bodies, hearts, and minds.
Embodiment starts with awareness–what our senses are experiencing and what we are feeling in our bodies. Developing practices to increase body awareness and deepening our relationship with the body can be a helpful tool in reducing the need for numbing (such as through alcohol or mindless media consumption).
Emotional Granularity / Emotional Literacy
Emotional granularity is the skill to identify emotions in a nuanced way. When you have a vast vocabulary to name those emotions, that’s emotional literacy (a term coined by psychotherapist Claude Steiner). This is the main building block for developing emotional intelligence. Without being able to identify and articulate our emotions, they can be confusing, misleading, and impact our relationships with both others, and with ourselves.
Emotional intelligence refers to our ability to notice and manage the emotions of yourself and others. When you’re emotionally intelligent, you understand how your emotions impact your behaviour, and recognize that others’ emotions impact their behaviours, too.
External / Internal Feedback
External/Internal Feedback refers to how we change our emotional state in reaction to internal or external circumstances. Internal feedback often refers to a gut feeling, which is our body’s way of warning us. External feedback is how the world around us reacts to our behaviour. This is what we work with when doing self-regulation and co-regulation. Embodiment practices allow us to pause before reacting to this internal and external feedback, allowing us to centre ourselves before responding.
Felt Sense / Bodily Felt Sense
This refers to sensations in the body. The term ‘felt sense’ was coined by famed psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin. Felt sense is the embodiment of our ever-changing emotional landscape, and it moves our focus from things happening externally to things happening as part of our internal experience.
Somatic work refers to work centred around the body. However, it doesn’t just mean the physical body, but the connection of mind, body, and spirit. Somatic work refers to practices that use the mind-body connection to help you connect with your internal state, listen to those signals, and respond.