I am very open about my journey with therapy and medication to deal with my anxiety and my struggles with parenting – that’s not a secret. So a few weeks ago I was invited to A Short Pause, a workshop bringing together therapy and TRE.

TRE stands for Trauma and Tension Releasing exercises. And it might be a mouthful but believe me when I tell you it blew my mind.

But back to the workshop.

A {Short Pause} Workshop

The workshop is run by TRE practitioner Charisse Fourie and registered counsellor Marina Galletis.

They both focus on healing from stress and trauma, and while their strategies are opposite, they are complementary. Marina works with a top-down approach. She looks at the impact of change through narrative therapy. Charisse works with a bottom-up approach. She helps to resolve trauma through the body – TRE, specifically.

TRE and self care

Both Charisse and Marina believe that we need to focus more on self care through the lens of body and mind. Especially these days, most of us are in survival mode. Moms are very good at caring for others but not looking after themselves.

And yes, buying good bras, having massages and having your nails done are all good ways of self care, but we need to look deeper than that. We need to look after our bodies and minds in order to fully take care of ourselves. We need to look after ourselves so we can be the best version of ourselves and help others, as we naturally do. By looking after our bodies and minds we can integrate change within our systems.

Of course, this is always the issue. Therapy and exercise takes time, so how do we fit it in to our lives on a regular basis? This was the purpose of this workshop.

The workshop ran over a full day. We alternated narrative therapy sessions with TRE exercises. Throughout the sessions we were given practical tools and exercises which we can use on a regular basis which won’t take up too much of our precious time. As a mom, I not only appreciated this for myself but I appreciated the way they explained how we could use these tips and tricks for our children.

What I learned

Here are a few of the activities we did:

Hot chocolate breathing

When you can feel yourself getting angry or frustrated, give yourself a hug and focus on your breathing. If you can see your little one getting angry or frustrated, hold them firmly on their shoulders while facing them. Ask them to breathe as if they were blowing on a cup of hot chocolate. This can give you (and your kid) some time to settle before reacting instinctively.

Look at things with intention

It’s perfectly normal to not be happy or to be angry or sad sometimes. We need to embrace our negative emotions but learn not to get stuck on them. When you have such a feeling, draw it on a piece of paper. You don’t need to draw the literal problem (eg the mental load of motherhood/ button-pushing children/ mortgage payments) but draw the problem as you imagine it (a red triangle with yellow stripes). When you are finished your drawing, sit with it.

Vagus nerve massage

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from your brain to the large intestine. It helps your body switch between fight-or-flight mode and relaxation. But it can lose the ability to switch to relaxation mode through stress or trauma, so you’re always in fight-or-flight mode. Keeping your vagus nerve strong and balanced can help regulate your emotions, help with symptoms of depression, reduce blood pressure and inflammation, and treat headaches.

Vagus nerve massage is a simple technique which you can do every time you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control. It is a simple technique incorporating gentle massage of parts of your face (particularly around the jaw, ears and temple) – there are loads of videos on vagus nerve massage on Youtube.

When we had to take Seb to the ER the other weekend (he swallowed something and we didn’t know what it was), he went into a panic. His granda passed away a few months ago in the same hospital and Seb was scared he wouldn’t ever leave the hospital. I sat next to him and gently massaged his vagus nerve. After a few (very long) minutes, he stopped scream-crying, queitened down and actually fell asleep. Highly recommend it as a sleep tool!


But the best part of the day for me was the TRE. First you do 7 simple exercises to relax the body. These exercises work to activate a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating to calm the nervous sytem. Basically you lie on your back from 20 minutes and you vibrate. Crazy, hey? This is known as therapeutic tremoring and it helps the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma that are held in the body.

The benefits of TRE are better sleep, improved core stability, stronger mindfulness, more energy, natural calm and patience. In fact, I was so impressed with how I felt after the TRE that I’m going to do more sessions!

Check out A {Short Pause} on Instagram to find out about upcoming workshops (both online and in-person).

Plus: A Short Pause is holding an online course around anxiety. You can find more info here. For 20% off use the promo code THEBIRD.