Hot-and-Cold Tools to Help Difficult Moments Pass

By December 12, 2022July 31st, 2023Trauma
trauma and relapse

A Trusty Recovery Toolkit

Women in recovery face the challenge of dealing with trauma and its residues in the body, as a necessity for overcoming triggers to relapse. 

As people learning to help our bodies release trauma responses, we develop a personalized toolkit over time of things that really work for us personally.

Getting to know ourselves from a place of love, and learning how precisely we like and need to be cared for to thrive is an aspect of the recovery journey. 

As we learn and grow stronger in our sobriety, our collection of tools can be come as trusty and familiar as a handyman’s – something for every scenario!  

Help for Being Here Now

The following tools are about orienting towards the here and now moment you are presently in. 

More than a platitude about being present, these tools literally help you to become aware of the fact that you are in a present moment and not actually currently in the nightmare that you nervous system is telling you you’re in.

Hot and Cold Tools: Change Your Temperature, Change Your Energy!

Have you ever noticed how a mild, pleasant shock of cold or warm can help you “snap out of it” and return to the present? For example, splashing your face with cold water or stepping outside on a cold day help reset you towards safety in part because of the temperature change these create for you. 

Hot and Cold Tools rely on this grounding, stabilizing effect to help you get re-connected to the present. The goal is to create a focus-grabbing, yet harmless sensation in the physical body right now.  

How to use Hot and Cold Tools:

Anything safe that creates a temporary change in your temperature in either direction may be helpful for you. Experiment for yourself and see what seems promising. 

Remember to be gentle and kind, aim not to punish the body but to create mild, pleasant changes in sensation that help Body Awareness rise to the surface of your experience. 

Cold Tools

  1. Hold Something Cold

Take a cold object from the refrigerator and hold it in your hands, just noticing the (possibly a little unpleasant) sensation and how it changes your focus of awareness. The positive change may only hit you after you are done holding the cold object, as the shifts in your body’s energy integrate.

  1. Numb Yourself (Safely) 

If feeling very distressed, you can even try taking an ice cube from the freezer and holding it in your hand until it has melted. It will be shocking in a safe way to the body, and can help change the energy pathways. This technique is probably better used for times when you’re quite upset as it’s a little bit intense, but of course apply your own instincts here.

  1. Wash it Away

Finally, you can try taking a cold shower. If this is hard to imagine kicking off, you can start with a warm shower and then end your shower with sixty seconds of cold water. The pleasant part of this technique kicks in afterwards, when you are wrapping yourself in a towel and noticing that your body has balanced itself through this exposure to opposites of temperature.  

Hot Tools

  1. Warm Your Face

Run warm water over your hands and face. Alternatively, soak a washcloth in very hot water and, being careful not to burn yourself, lay it over your face and leave it there until it has gone fully cold. You may combine this technique with aromatherapy if you have a very gentle oil in a carrier oil, such as a drop of lavender in jojoba oil. 

  1. Create Body Fire

Rub your hands together until they’re quite warm  (about 30 seconds), and then place your warmed hands over a part of your body, such as over your lower back, neck, head or heart. Take in the soothing sensation of your own loving hands helping another part of you feel more at ease. The fact that it is you who is helping you can be an important part of building trust in yourself over time, that you really will be there for you, going forward. 

  1. Apply Heat Directly

Getting under the covers, putting on soft comfy layers and applying gentle warmth directly are important trauma and recovery tools. You can make yourself a warm pot of herbal tea and slowly drink it. If available, you can also use body-warming assists like hot water bottles and heat lamps. And of course, baths, especially when made extra detoxifying through the addition of magnesium crystals or sea salt, are a wonderful tool if you’re fortunate enough to have a bath tub.  

Remember to look out for easy, pleasing sensations and an overall effect of changing your state. Good luck!

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