You’ve probably heard of the word “Mindfulness,” but what is it and how will it help selective mutism?
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an approach to therapy using purposeful thoughts to help control anxiety.
We often run on autopilot, reacting to the world without thinking about how or why we’re reacting that way. For example, those with selective mutism already know they cannot speak to others in public. So, if out in public and someone says, “Hi,” their body defaults to the learned reaction of saying nothing (and most likely, looking away). But how does one break this cycle and stop reacting habitually? Mindfulness techniques may help.
Being aware of what is going on inside and outside of your body is being mindful. When selective mutism strikes it causes physical responses such as:
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Sweaty palms
- Shaky hands
- Tight throat
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
We cannot control every physical response, but we can focus on what each one feels like to make us more aware of our bodies. This purposeful focusing on each individual symptom is a mindful activity. And if you concentrate on slowing your breathing, the other symptoms may begin to calm, too.
To practice body awareness to help control anxiety, try this exercise:
- Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, slowly. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Curl and uncurl your toes, thinking about how your feet feel.
- Stomp your feet onto the ground. How do your legs feel?
- Tighten your hands into a fist, then release. Feel your fingers as they curl into your palm.
- Press your hands together. How do your hands and arms feel?
- Rub your palms together quickly. Do you feel the warmth? Listen to the sound it makes.
- Stretch your body by reaching up as high as you can, then lower your arms to your sides.
- Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, slowly. Repeat 3-5 times. Notice how much calmer you feel?
Practice these exercises daily. Begin during a calmer moment so there are no distractions. Eventually, you’ll be able to use them to help reduce your anxious moments. To overcome selective mutism, you must learn to handle the physical responses it causes. And it takes practice, practice, practice.