The Anchoring Heart Technique is an age-old somatic practice that grounds people and helps them feel more secure. It is simple and straightforward; the hard part is remembering to do it when you feel uncomfortable feelings you prefer to disconnect from.
WHEN YOU ARE CENTERED: Calm energy usually resides low and deep within yourself. You might report feeling open and relaxed.
WHEN YOU ARE “Beside Yourself”: Anxious energy usually rises; it’s no longer deep in your belly, but climbs up in your chest. Your voice often rises in pitch. You might report feeling uptight and flighty.
WHEN YOU ACCESS INNATE BODY WISDOM: Have you ever received bad news that caught you off guard? Maybe you gasped and grabbed your chest with an open palm, UNCONSCIOUSLY anchoring yourself. The “Anchoring Heart Technique” simply applies the same gesture CONSCIOUSLY. It is:
• an act of self compassion you can use whenever you feel anxious, stressed, or helpless
• useful whenever you are in need of strength, courage, or patience
• helpful to re-train your brain and the synapses in your nervous system to allow emotional pain and hurt sit side by side with peace (instead of fear)
"In my current role in hospice, I provide support to the service offices, and do not get many chances to be involved in direct patient care. A few weeks ago, I overheard a phone conversation about a Marine who was struggling with anxiety and agitation. The patient was lying on his couch and needed to be moved into a hospital bed for his comfort. He became increasingly agitated when his daughter approached him, and this resulted in the daughter calling frantically to the hospice office. The discussion I overheard included a plan to have the daughter administer Lorazepam and/or Haldol to calm him down. I immediately came out of my office and joined the conversation. My biggest concern was that this Marine was declining, feeling helpless, and giving him Lorazepam or Haldol could have a paradoxical reaction. These drugs can make a person feel MORE helpless. If they have a history of trauma, they might fight harder to keep control of the situation which looks like agitation. I asked if there was anyone in the home other than the patient’s daughter. The response I received was “just the home health aide, and she can’t help.” I called the home and spoke to the aide.
I asked her a few questions and we discussed how this situation may be causing the patient to feel helpless. I then instructed the aide to go over to the couch and get down at eye level with the patient. She did that. I then asked her to firmly place her hand on the patients back and to say to him “you must feel so helpless being on this couch.” I wanted her to simply validate his suffering. She did that. I then told her to remind him to breathe. He tolerated all of this well. Then I asked the aide to move her hand over the patient’s heart and apply the 'Anchoring Heart Technique' to ground him in his own body. I again instructed her to say (pause and change voice inflection) “You must feel so helpless lying on this couch, and unable to get up and care for yourself.” (pause) Again she reminded him to breathe and continued to sit with her hand over his heart until the anxiety and agitation subsided. This aide reported back to me that this technique worked within 10 minutes."