One Armoring Strategy: somatic play that some people find helpful

Armoring is at the root of what most of my clients come in for help with. They don’t understand why their shoulders are so tight and say things like “Why is my body so stupid?” I don’t say it in the moment to clients who are expressing legit frustration, but your body is a genius, and it is trying to prevent you from experiencing pain. This is especially genius because it works for physical pain (for example: if you damage your knee, your quads will tense up to protect the knee from getting too painful with normal jostling around) as well as emotional pain (example: when somebody is yelling at me I tense my jaw up).

Sometimes I see clients who need to armor all day when they’re at work, they know about it and hate it, and they find that it means that they never get to step out of their armor. When you know in advance that you’re stepping into an armor-appropriate situation, an exercise you can try to feel less stuck and out-of-control is Put On Your Own Armor. This can be just a quiet moment where you close your eyes and imagine putting it on, or you can put on some music (depending on your age, may I suggest the transformation sequence music from your favorite Voltron/Power Rangers/She-Ra/He-Man/Jem/Transformers cartoon?) and do a little dance. You don’t need to tense up your body while you do this, just imagine the armor. How thick is it? Is it a stretchy Super Suit or is it clanking and metal? How big does it make you? What colors is it? Does it have any embellishment? How big and protective do you need it to be? 

The reason to take a moment to actively put it on is that you can then actively remove your armor! See how that works? When you are going leaving whatever space or people are your own personal Thunderdome, you can take a similar moment and imagine taking it off, cleaning it (if necessary) and putting it away. Where do you store it when you don’t need it? 

Self-care techniques that might work on the tension you have right now: Headaches!

Pain and tension can come from a lot of different causes. Sometimes there are serious problems, and sometimes excess tension is just excess tension. Here are some self-care things you can try. I make no guarantees about any of these working for you, and as in all self-care, take care of yourself. None of these should hurt, and if they make anything worse, they're not the right thing for you. These are things I would personally do for mild-to-moderate tension in my own body that aren't too hard to explain in writing over the internet.

A lot of headaches have tension as a contributing factor, especially tension in the neck.

  • Try the mad scientist thing: Gently but firmly grab your hair by a handful on either side of your head and gently pull it in a direction that feels good. Mad scientists do this because they know that their skull is covered by muscles and fascia that can hold tension and that melting/stretching that tension away can help them think clearer and relax. Make sure that your breathing is relaxed when you do this. It should feel good, and you should have hair like Rod Stewart when you are done.
  • Using a heat pack can be really helpful. For headaches, the best places to put it include around the back of your neck or on your jaw.
  • Maybe you don't have hair to do the mad scientist thing with, in which case you can do the thing Bugs Bunny does to Elmer Fudd in "The Rabbit of Seville" at the beginning of this clip, right before the mid-century fruit salad thing happens. For added bonus relaxation, soak a big washcloth or small hand towel in warm or hot water and ring it out and then put it on your head and massage your scalp and forehead through it. Work down into your jaw muscles if that feels good too!