The 12-Second Chill
When you're trying to cope with a crisis you need a strategy that works fast. Unless you get your feelings settled, you'll have a hard time getting your mind in gear.
Here's a simple technique that'll take the edge off any pent up feelings. The first few seconds are the toughest - after that, each "Chill" moment gets easier.
Practice repeatedly and this body-based strategy will even increase your tolerance to stress.
Note the expression on my face the third time I did it. I really dropped into my tiredness.
That's okay—I was tired.
It's like the adrenaline that was pumping my system—and keeping me up past my bedtime to do this video—had now left my body.
In a situation like this it helps to allow your body to drop even further—to go into the "tired". (You'd be following your body's natural inclination.)
So if I had the time and was so inclined what would be really helpful to my nervous system would be to continue tracking inside my body during this tired period.
In doing so, I'm literally helping to reset my nervous system at a new lower level.
This is exactly what you want. It'll take more practice sessions of course to achieve this new set-point—that's what you should be aiming for though.
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I like the idea of the “12-second chill,” but I think it could be very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I think the only reason I really know what you are talking about is my own experience working with a somatically-trained therapist.
I remember at one point when I was in panic mode in session and couldn’t calm down, she handed me some ball weights and asked me to track the sensations in my arms and hands. After about five minutes they had gone from buzzy to fizzy to tingly to normal. When you really experience that, it’s like magic. It’s not just different from using relaxation techniques, it’s actually way more effective.
Anyway, I am just saying this for the benefit of others reading this. This is a counterintuitive technique. By fully feeling your stress IN YOUR BODY, it goes away. No idea why it works, but I think it’s way cool!
Yes Julie, that’s exactly it. It’s counterintuitive. Reading about something that has to be experienced to really “get it”, is tough. Which is why I have such a dang hard time describing it so others will understand!
Anyway, good to hear you’re with a body-based therapist and thanks for letting us know how well it’s worked for you.
I tried this. What was interesting was finding stressful feelings in my body. I would have had no inkling they were even there. You are right, it is extremely uncomfortable to stay with those feelings in my body, but as you suggested, I made myself stay there. I could not resist trying it a second time and extraordinarily (to me) it certainly was easier. I shall practice this daily, and thank you very much for sharing such a wonderful information.
In time I will return here and tell you what we have noticed. Hannah
Perhaps my question/comment is beyond the scope of this – however – I’d like to know your opinion/perspective on how to utilize this technique for those who tend to dissociate? (not just ‘minor dissociation’ but bigger than that?) Thanks – Mary
Hi Mary, I haven’t actually worked with folks that experience “bigger” dissociation. By “bigger” I assume you are referring to folks who have an internal ‘family’. However, it’s a question that I’d like to know the answer to. I will post this question on my listserve and return here if I receive a response.
I do believe that the body basis of this technique can be useful for ‘minor’ dissociation – even if one has a large ‘family’. (Indeed, friends of mine who have a large ‘family’ are noticing the difference using body-based strategies.)
In any case, it’s often more beneficial to extend the practice in a “titrated” way as opposed to feeling the full impact of the emotional energy like when one is doing the “Chill”. (Doing the “Chill” is tough on an ongoing basis.)
Hope that helps,
What about with children in the ‘family’ ? how can you teach it to them?
Hello Mary, I’d say that in the same way that you teach anyone to ground, you’d teach this to children and young members of ‘families’. I think it’s important for all children to learn how to sense into their bodies.
Actually, that’s how they lived their first years of life. Infants experience their world through their senses not their left brain verbal capacities. So it’s not so unfamiliar to them as it would be to us – particularly if as adults we’ve become more left-brain focused in our later years 😉
I’ve heard of teachers for instance, teaching this technique to their pupils. It helps to take the edge off when the classroom energy gets a little hyper.
Learning how to sense in on a regular basis as one does with the 12-Second Chill is an all round good practice for being present and keeping one’s nervous system healthy. So in my books, I’d be teaching kids for sure.
So if you’re game, give it a go and let us know how it works out.
I am replying to you because as you know I am dissociative and struggle with it at times. I read Mary’s comment about the Chill and dissociation and knowing what it is like possibly understand some of her difficulties. Maybe. If it is of any help to her or anyone else, I practice the 12 Second Chill and I can assure you that it has helped me a bit and a bit more each time I try it. And so I believe in it.
And so naturally I keep going when I am able. I am very careful too – always using titration, I go into the stressful feeling but not when it is at it’s worst. I try to just take, ie hang out on the edge. Not always successfully. The word I use with care here is “magically” it helps. I have been so stressed and so negative about everything these last few days, that no ways would I be continuing to practice it if it didn’t work for me. You obviously can’t do it when times are bad (dissociation), but I would say otherwise it works and can be used with success and I believe with increasing relief.
I too have had tremendous help from all the ‘body based techniques’ you have taught us in the BCP and could not manage without them. Such a help. I have a little notebook which I carry around. (Resources in it too)!
I didn’t think I got too stessed out at any time but I did try the “12 second chill “. I wanted to teach my partner who does get stressed and has the highs and lows that are associated with depression.
I realize that it does benefit me as well. Thank you for introducing it to me.
Glad you found it helpful Mom.
It reminds me a bit of the Litany Against Fear in the book, Dune:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
I’ve used it many years and for many things in addition to fear.
I have been practising this technique for about a week now and have discovered that I generally feel calmer and things that would normally fluster me are not having as much effect. In fact by facing the uncomfortableness experienced in my body I think this has freed up mental space to be able to have clarity about situations in my life and come to better quality solutions. Thank-you for sharing this simple technique . Amanda
That’s fantastic Amanda….love to hear it. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
And imagine…we’re only scratching the surface here with the 12-Second Chill in terms of the body’s potential.
Thanks…very helpful to deal with those times. 🙂
My name is Heather, and I somehow found your website a few weeks ago, and just love what I found! I am in therapy, and sometimes, find one hour just is not enough time in a week, to get out what my issues are, and to be given constructive feed back on how to learn to deal with the issues.
I love my therapist, and feel she has been extremely helpful for me. She has taught me to stay in the present, by counting the pictures in the room, or the treees, outside… This technique does help keep you in the here and now. Your 12 sec chill, helps me to be in touch with whats going on in my body. I did the 12 sec chill about 4 times, and I started out noticing this really sharp pain in my lower stomach. Now, after doing it several times, the pain in my lower stomach is so great, I almost feel doubled over with it. I have been just sitting in the chair now for about 10 minutes, and the pain is the same. I have been practicing deep breathing, hoping the pain will go away. I am not allowing myself to get upset or concerned. I am just experiencing the pain and hopefully, it subsides on its own.
Would it be possible for you to post some information, on how to deal or what to do with the pain we start to feel during the 12 sec chill? I would be very grateful for any input or information you could give.
With Warm Regards, Heather
Hello Heather, I’m sorry that I missed seeing this post when you first posted and so hopefully the pain you’ve described has either subsided or you’ve gotten medical advice. Sharp pain tends to arise with acute problems and it’s a good idea to get it checked out with your doctor just to be sure, especially if it continues.
That said, I’m pleased to hear that you became more aware of the pain while doing the Chill. Our body is always sending out signals and it’s great that you picked up on it. If we’re too distracted we can miss important information our body is trying to alert us to.
I can’t tell you how many times I checked into my body and found a soreness or pain that I hadn’t noticed before. It’s super, cause then I can make adjustments or address the problem in the moment before things go too terribly wrong.
In answer to your question, as I mentioned above, if you have acute pain, it’s best to get it checked out. However, if in the off chance your pain is an ongoing one and you know the source of it and want to work with it using your body, there are specific techniques to do so. Using the same principles of titration and resourcing, you would essentially “wind” down the nervous system and re-integrate the frozen energy that’s being blocked. (That’s about as specific as I can get here.)
In fact, body psychotherapy is often used quite successfully to alleviate chronic pain.
Hope you’re feeling better Heather.
I liked your movie on the 12 second chill. I practice something very similar. It surprises people to find how quickly emotions can transform when they are acknowledged, instead of avoided.
I think your web-site does a great job of educating others.
Communication is hard for me and i seldom reply or will leave a comment, but this past year, my body just came to a stand, because i tried for years not to feel my emotions or stress in my body. I had a very stressful past 10 years and just had to keep going, i was hoping that if i ignore my body and keep going, i will sort it out when i have time, but being a mom, business owner and much more there was never a moment to stop.
Last year September i woke up one morning stuttering, in October it turned to slurred speech and by November i could not walk. Yes, finally my body got my attention. My life was constantly running in crisis management mode” I find it incredibly hard to pause and allow myself to feel my body talking, i would like to rather find another rational way of over thinking and rationalizing things and ignore this.
I am in therapy at the moment and have a wonderful therapist, but i am so great full that i have stumbled across your site. It has been incredibly helpful to have a proper explanation to why’s and how’s? And as a result calming my over thinking and i am committed to apply the 12 second chill as it make so much sense.
Hi I’m just now getting into it and trying it but just got it downloaded yesterday and with school and all I’ve been assigned an essay about road rage because a college of mine who I drove home one day noticed my road rage , something I had never noticed. And the more I looked at my behavior I could see he was somewhat right. So I’m going try and implement this into that. I hope it works. Thank you again for being there for me. Amazing what you can find on the computer. Your friend I hope, Frank
Thanks for all the helpful comments…it is so nice to hear that i am not alone in my struggle.
I’m confused (as usual). If the goal is to face sensations in our body, is that to make the brain able to learn or to face the icky sensations?
Next: What are we trying to learn? Why face the icky sensations?
How does the 12-second of being Present in the Body reduce stress by reducing the energy that’s behind it?
Are we to notice the uncomfortable bodily sensations (tightness for example) in order to distract from our fear does the process of noticing reduce the energy of the fear?
Hi Mindy, these are excellent questions and it’s easy to get confused for sure cause it’s all new – and it’s easier when someone demonstrates it. And yes, by moving towards the icky sensations, you’re giving your brain the opportunity to learn how to process the sensations. Eventually, your brain will learn this and you’ll have less trouble with them – which means, you’ll have less trouble with fear and emotions.
Now, there are things you can do to make this process easier and more effective and you’ll be learning them in the BCP.
Basically, when you’re doing the 12-Second Chill – depending on your state at the time – your brain is learning how to manage the sensations and to take a break from the pattern you were just in.
Here’s one analogy that might help a bit.
Think of the doing the Chill as “emptying your bucket”. If you think of a bucket full of water and you poke tiny pin holes in it, the water will slowly drain out. When you take a 12-Second Chill break, you’re giving your brain the chance to siphon off the pent up energy in your nervous system. By doing the Chill here and there, it “interrupts” that pattern and you don’t end up being so wound up like you usually would.
Done repeatedly, it can change how you respond to stress. In other words, your automatic response will be lessened.
Being in the body may or may not distract us from our fears…the point is that it eventually reduces our fear.
Hope that helps,
I noticed I am using one slow in/out breath to time the chill (It might be a little longer than 12 seconds). I didn’t realize it right away – and you would think that noticing breath would be a first step, but, duh….
Is that something you would/could/should do?
I didn’t mean to focus on the breath because that could distract from other body awareness, but it seemed to happen spontaneously.
Oh for sure Beth, you’ll find you’ll be directed naturally to where your body wants to take you at any given time. So, if in this moment, it happens to be your breath that’s fine.
By the way, the best kind of spontaneous breaths are those that have a bit of a shudder to them. That’s a sign your nervous system is letting go.
Here’s my comment about dissociation:
Personally I have problems with dissociation. My worst flashbacks all come with very high activation and body memories (procedural memories). In therapy I use the body sensations of a flashback as a gateway to the actual traumatic memories. But I don’t do that outside of therapy.
Outside of therapy, during that kind of a flashback, doing the 12 second chill is really tricky at first because it’s really hard not to get “sucked into the memory” (or “trauma vortex”, a Somatic Experiencing term) by attending to my body.
But the 12 second chill works really well once I can start to sense the sensation in my whole body. That leads to release of pent up energy.
I wanted to say that you definately gave me an “aha” moment, the more I read on and listen the more intrigued I becomed. I am a highly stressed single minority mother, who def tries to be above that typical statistic that is placed on so many who can relate with me. I must say just doing the few exercises (something as little as chilling out for 12 secs…made me realize, I NEED this 🙂 Thank you.
Thank you! Just what I needed this morning. Your videos are helping me remember the calm resides within–it’s right there! I’d just “forgotten” it’s just a short way away.
This is perfect timing and thank you for the reminder. I’ll wait until I’m more relaxed and then go for it!
It’s strange how we can forget things which we know are so helpful, but I guess we just do sometimes! Thank you.
well! it looks simple to practice…..but i think some people are just too stubborn to bring a change in them….n second thing i have experienced is that there is a very little effect of doing some thing physical on mind as compared to controlling the mind itself…may be i am wrong…in fact, i have tried many things in my life to feel relaxed or in control…but to work with your brain is the hardest thing ever….still, the practice is easier, thank you for your help…. 🙂
Yeah, Tayyeba, it’s true…some folks are quite hesitant to sense into their body. It’s understandable…all our trauma memories are stored in the body and if we’re not used to sensing in and knowing that the sensations are normal, we can get scared.
Thanks for your comment,
Certainly, such ‘felt sense’ things have become central to my existence. And having been presented with ‘a new exercise’ in the form of the 12-Second Chill, helps to keep me engaged in the whole ‘felt sense’ process. In the past, some ‘primal events’ resulted in quite definite ‘steps forward’ that were in essence, permanent. But at present at least, I can allow something to ‘well-up’ inside, and ‘live with it’ for sometimes way more than 12 seconds, and then maybe/maybe not, it will subside. But, are such events ‘changing’? At present, no. Something that I’ve ‘processed’ extensively may well ‘go away’, only to come back at me with renewed ferocity days/weeks later, again and again.
Quite disheartening… 🙁
(Hey, I know you’re probably quite busy, and have many people contacting you. But I wonder… can I expect an reply…? Or are these ‘Questions/comments’ purely for ‘sounding out the world out there’?
Hi Sooty, you’ve challenged me today! These are meaty questions you’re posing. Let me see if I can give you something to consider in regards to how the brain changes.
The first thing to know is that the greatest change occurs at the edge of the Comfort Zone. If you are at the edge or beyond, it means you’re in a high arousal state. Whatever strategy or intervention you’re subsequently using, if it were to return you to baseline, there’s a greater chance the brain has made a permanent shift.
These types of events tend to occur with a trusted therapist who’s emotionally available to you. They also occur during crises. They can also occur when we’ve had a lot of emotional baggage that’s as yet unprocessed and our nervous system “container” is suddenly full.
When you referred to a “primal event” it sounded like you went through such a time. It’s fantastic by the way that you can now allow yourself to well up and sit with what shows up a little longer. That’s great progress.
The important thing is that you’ve had a corrective experience and the outcome is positive. (A negative outcome means the energy was not contained – in other words you were probably flooded – and you either got worse or there was no change evident.)
Now in regards to this positive experience, you might have noticed that the shift you experienced seemed more “real” immediately after the event. You knew you had changed and the echo of how you were previously is still accessible right there in your memory.
I know when my clients shift like this, there’s a solid knowingness that the brain has changed. However, as the weeks go by, this shift is less concrete.
So I’m assuming you had the same experience: as the weeks pass, even though you know you’ve changed, it’s slightly less palpable.
The reason is as we change, the brain adjusts our everyday “normal” way of being. You see, when the brain shifts internally it’s hard to re-experience yourself as you used to be.
The end result is that we feel as if we’ve been this way always.
So basically what I’m saying is that your progress – if it comes in baby steps – may be hard to discern until you experience a shift. Just know however every time you do the Chill your brain becomes engaged in new learning.
It’s also important to understand, when you’re using the 12 Second Chill, that this is a mini-intervention. Often we’re inclined to use it when we’re well within our Comfort Zone which means the shifts will take longer to arrive at. Using it during a crisis will make a difference though.
Keep in mind that the 12-Second Chill is just a taste of more powerful body-based strategies. There are others that help with highly intense feelings (eg. feeling key up, restlessness, rage, panic etc.) that are easier.
Now, it’s still possible to change using the Chill – it’s just these mini-interventions need to accumulate in to a point where the brain shifts. Depending on how often – and how big the arousal pattern you’re working with – will determine how long it takes.
There’s one other factor that I need to caution you about as well that might explain why some things came back on you.
The Chill and other body-based techniques are excellent for helping you return to the Comfort Zone. In time, you will live more of your life within this Zone as nature intended.
It’s important however, that once you are in your Comfort Zone that you don’t use these techniques to stuff emotions deeper. Rather, you need to use them to learn to move through your emotions.
In doing so, you’re training your brain to not only stay within the Zone, you’re also learning to modulate emotions. You’re building neuropathways for tolerating your emotions.
You see, you want to be able to handle big emotions for the simple reason that big emotions will increase your capacity for big joy!
I hope that helps answer your question Sooty.
All the best,
PS. My backend system is in conflict with the notification system so you won’t get an automatic reply – I’ll email you directly instead.
Something in this makes a lot of sense to me. Using my language it will be that the chill works best when I’m. outside my comfort zone but not outside my window of tolerance.
When I am exposing myself to something that I know is good that triggers my fight/flight response but before I’m triggered all the way deep into freeze. When this happens it’s too late and I have only repated my old strategy. The only thing I can do then is to try again while my body feels safe enough to give it a new try. But not until I have taken care of myself first and allows myself to take a small step.
I have just tried this technique, though not during a stressful event. I performed the 12 second chill 3 times as was demonstrated in the video. I experienced a progressive relaxation with each successive 12-second event. It felt like a combination of meditation and mindfulness turned inward. Twelve seconds seemed so short, but I am used to lengthy meditations. I will try it under stress when I get an opportunity. Thank you for this new tool to try.
Oh that’s great Gale. Yeah, it’s short because it’s easy to quickly know whether you experience a benefit. Since you did feel the effects, it also means that other body-based tools – which are longer lasting and which are made for higher stress levels – will work for you.
The 12-Second Chill can be done anytime, anywhere cause you’re just dipping into your body – it gives you an idea of how activated we can get and not realize it.
The important idea behind body-based tools is that they are more effective than cognitive based strategies because they reach the brain areas where our emotions reside.
Thanks for giving it a try!
Thanks so much for the technique. QUESTION: is it effective in changing “procedural memory “ where there is no awareness of stress, but I want to Reprogram significant parts of my right brain, in response to my “Insecure anxious attachment” disorder? I developed this as a result of their significant alcoholism, dysfunction, and preoccupation with their own issues, and their (esp. mom’s) misattunment)
Yes, it excels at changing procedural memory Mathew. Use it repeatedly through the day to interrupt any negative emotional or fear-based state. (Interrupting and changing the direction of a negative to a positive state helps to change patterns at their core.) Of course, if you happen to be in therapy, that’s the best place to use it as the nervous system of your therapist will unconsciously help to “contain” any extra energy. Thanks for your question, Susan
It definitely feels very relaxing! I have a feeling I’ll get better at it with more practice, right?
That’s right Rebecca. You’ll become more attuned to your body. Each time you practice new neuropathic connections in the brain start forming. With enough of these connections the neuropathways start firing together. At that point, the “Chill” works even faster. Susan