When you need a hug but nobody’s around, use these exercises from Somatic Experiencing (available in a printable reference sheet for convenience).

Somatic Experiencing is a form of therapy developed by Peter Levine, PhD for coping with difficult feelings–especially those caused by sensations stuck in our bodies due to various life stressors or traumas. 

Somatic Experiencing practitioners consider it important to feel “held” in order to move through discomfort. That’s partially because feeling held calms the body’s “fight or flight” system.

Any of us who have ever craved a hug can relate. Of course, there are alternatives to physical hugs, like chatting in an anonymous, moderated peer group. But if a Virtual Hug® like what you’d get at Supportiv just won’t cut it, there is a way to replicate the feeling of being physically held–on your own and on the fly.

Who are these exercises good for?

This worksheet walks you through two exercises which may help people who have experienced:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Rejection
  • Abandonment
  • Touch starvation
  • Panic
  • Insomnia
  • Overwhelm
  • Needing a hug

How can these exercises help when you feel like you need a hug?

These two techniques instill a sense of boundary between you and the world, especially after trauma has destroyed that sense (and your sense of safety along with it). The techniques can settle your nerves in times of panic, and minimize feelings of loneliness and touch starvation.

“When a person is traumatized, almost nothing feels safe.” Dr. Levine goes on to describe that the value of exercises like these, is “to be able to convey, at least in the smallest amount, an island of safety–that there is a way that you can feel safe.”

Need motivation? Here’s what others have said afterward…

“Most people report a settling. What this does, I believe, is it helps us become aware of our ‘container.’ The body is the container of all our sensations and feelings. It’s all in the body…And when the person can feel the container, then the emotions and sensations don’t feel as overwhelming–because they’re being contained.” – Peter Levine

Comments on the YouTube video for this exercise:

“This worked for me…calmed me immediately, and I started to cry.”

“I found somatic release therapy to be more helpful even than talk therapy or trauma counseling for calming the hypervigilance and overactive ‘fight or flight’ instinct that can get stuck after trauma. Glad to discover more techniques to use at home.”

“I feel so calm, less overwhelming when I do the technique…It is almost life saving…”

“These techniques have an immediate calming effect for me – I have CPTSD, and I will show a friend with either the same or anxiety. If​ I am out and go into freeze I can go to a restroom and do them.”

Related worksheets