NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Self Soothing With the Butterfly Hug to Cope With Anxiety and Depression

I have been focusing on self soothing techniques as coping strategies in my last two articles (How to Cope With Touch Deprivation During the COVID-19 Crisis and Self Soothing Practices to Cope With Touch Deprivation).  

I'm continuing to focus on self soothing as a coping strategy to deal with anxiety and depression by discussing a particular strategy that you can easily use, the Butterfly Hug (see my article: Coping and Staying Calm During the COVID-19 Pandemic).

Self Soothing With the Butterfly Hug to Cope With Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression Are on the Rise Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
As you probably know, incidents of anxiety and depression have been way up since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There has also been a significant increase in touch deprivation due to the need to be socially distant to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, especially among people who live alone.  

Touch deprivation, in turn, has caused anxiety, depression and loneliness to skyrocket (see my article: Coping With Loneliness and Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic).  

Although we know that the pandemic will eventually end, we don't know when it will end. So, to cope with these emotional challenges, it's important to find ways to reduce emotional distress before it causes long term physical and emotional consequences.  

In my prior article, I discussed various self soothing ways to help you feel better, including self massage, self pleasuring and various other suggestions.

In this article, I'm focusing on the Butterfly Hug as an effective way to help you feel better.

What is the Butterfly Hug?
The Butterfly Hug is an easy relaxation technique you can use as part of your self care routine.  

It was developed by two EMDR therapists, Lucina (Lucy) Artigas and Ignacio Jarero in 1998 when they traveled to Acapulco, Mexico to help people who were traumatized by Hurricane Pauline.  

Not only is the Butterfly Hug easy to do, but you can use this relaxation technique at any time to help yourself to feel better.  Most clients really like it.

This relaxation technique is also used as a self soothing resource in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy for clients to use either in an EMDR therapy session or between sessions.  

Over the years, this resource has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, stress and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to trauma.  

How Does the Butterfly Hug Help Your Mind and Body to Relax?
The brain is divided into two hemispheres--the right brain and the left brain. 

The left brain primarily controls tasks related to logic, and the right brain primarily controls tasks related to emotions and creativity and, of course, they work together so you can function in your everyday life.

The Butterfly Hug is a form of bilateral stimulation (BLS). Bilateral stimulation is an important aspect of EMDR therapy. 

In EMDR therapy, BLS can take the form of eye movements from left to right or alternate tapping of knees, arms or feet. 

It's used in EMDR to activate, stimulate and integrate the right and left hemispheres of the brain.  As previously mentioned, it can also be used to self soothe to reduce anxiety, stress and depression.  In addition, it can help you to feel more grounded (see my article: How to Use Grounding Techniques to Stay Calm).

How to Use the Butterfly Hug For Self Soothing to Cope With Anxiety and Depression
  • Find a quiet place where you'll have privacy and you can sit comfortably.
  • If you feel safe closing your eyes, close them.  If not, find a specific spot on the floor where you can lower your gaze to focus on that spot so you're not distracted.
  • Notice any emotions that might come up for you and continue to breathe.  
  • If there are any disturbing thoughts or emotions come up, imagine you can place each one on a cloud and watch it float away as you continue to breathe.
  • Cross your hands so that one hand is on top of the other in the shape of butterfly wings across your chest.  With thumbs pointed towards your chin, fan out your fingers.  
  • Begin alternate tapping with each hand on your chest (right tap, left tap, right tap, left tap, and so on) as if your hands are butterfly wings.  The tapping is done in a slow rhythmic way. Remember to continue to breathe (instead of holding onto your breath).
  • Continue tapping until you feel calmer.
Getting Help in Therapy
Similar to other self soothing techniques, the Butterfly Hug is a self help technique that can bring you comfort, but if you find that this technique only brings you temporary relief from your symptoms, you could benefit from seeking professional help from a licensed psychotherapist.

A skilled therapist can help you to overcome symptoms related to anxiety and depression, assist you to develop better coping strategies, and help you to develop increased self confidence to deal with life's inevitable ups and downs.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional so you can overcome your problems and live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.