Without a doubt, work can be emotionally challenging. Clients can be demanding, projects can be pressure-filled, colleagues can do things that get on our very last nerve, and tempers can start to flare up all around us. And there can be moments when our emotions can start to feel overwhelming, and we may find ourselves in danger of saying or doing something we regret.

When emotions begin to overwhelm us, especially in a work environment (either in person or virtual) somatic activities can be a powerful way to become the master of our emotions and not let our emotions be the master of us.

What are somatic activities? Somatic activities involve performing movement for the sake of movement. When we engage in somatic activities we focus on our inner experience as we move and expand our internal awareness.

Here are a few examples of somatic activities that can be done in the workplace or anywhere we feel emotionally overwhelmed, yet we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves:

  • Stand up (or sit down) a few times in a row
  • Stretch
  • Clench and unclench your fists a few times in a row.
  • Roll your shoulders forwards, one at a time, then back again.
  • Roll your head a few times.
  • Press your chin to your chest, and then back again a few times.
  • Sit with your feet firmly planted in front of you and press into the floor and release a few times.

Do these, or any other similar activity, making sure to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in a rhythmic way and in conjunction with the movement. For example, if you opt to press your feet into the floor, press down while inhaling and exhale when you release.

And, either while you are doing your somatic activity or immediately afterward, you can be asking yourself questions such as:

  • What am I REALLY feeling? Remember, the more accurate we are in identifying what we are feeling, the better able we are to manage it.
  • Where is the feeling located in my body? For example, I tend to feel fear in my gut, but anger in my upper torso and throat.
  • What shape is my feeling?
  • What color is my feeling?

And while these last two seem silly, they help with self-awareness. Remember, the goal of somatic activities is to help us focus on our inner experience, so we must not only engage in intentional physical movement, we want to engage in intentional introspection as well.

While there are plenty of other somatic activities you can engage in including:Taking a walk, doing Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, and Dancing (my favorite), the activities above are ones you can do in a small space when others are present, or even sitting at your desk during a zoom call.

Engaging in somatic activities creates a “pattern interrupt”, builds your self-awareness, and creates the space in which you can manage your emotions and stop saying and doing things you may regret. Choose one to try the next time you want to more effectively handle emotionally challenging situations at work.