We're delighted to share some fantastic dilating tips, from Network Member Andria, Somatic Therapist SomatictherapyNYC.com...
I know the feeling, this plastic (or silicone) thing is about to go where? My mind immediately thought “But - that’s going to hurt” and my body responded! Anxiety often gets paired up with penetration and the fear of pain and wondering if this will work.
Or maybe you are at a point that you’re up to the 3rd dilator and now the pressure is ON. Determination flips into frustration because why can’t you get this one in; que disappointment over a set back or progress slowing down ushering in more anxiety.
My name is Andria and I kicked Vaginismus’ butt, and so can you.
Dilating at home is often referred to in the community as ‘stretching’. That statement is limiting, dilating at home is much more than stretching and it’s often pivotal to many women’s success.
Dilating retrains your brain and body literally through neuroplasticity, physically rewiring long standing pain often coupled with anxiety, into penetration being safe. With the aid of dilators we can explore how to build upon safety, control, empowerment and kick anxiety to the curb, in the context of this condition a dilator can be your secret weapon if you let it.
Penetration being safe and pain free might sound like a crazy notion to some of you right now as it did to me as well, it took a lot of figuring out what worked for me and what didn’t when dilating at home and today I am here to share some tips and tricks to soothe anxiety so you can re-educate your body’s response to penetration. Pick and choose what feels right for you, for me I started with distraction which sounds counterintuitive, read on to learn more.
The goal is safety. Our bodies are organized for safety and our vaginas are created to expand. Keep this in mind while you dilate, every time.
Create your sense of safety when dilating.
Find the position that works best for you. Some women lay in bed spread eagle while others put a pillow under their butt and find the butterfly position (feet together, knees spread apart) to be more relaxing.
Relaxing ~ with your 5 main senses. Bring in a comforting smell, lavender, chamomile and bergamot are known to be relaxing scents. Our olfactory (nose) system runs right past the limbic system of our minds which holds emotion and memory, take advantage of that.
Get comfy! Bring in extra pillows, blankets, whatever you need to support you. Give your sense of touch a fleece blanket (light) or a heavy comforter (weighted blankets calm anxiety).
Play music that relaxes you, or guided meditation. Explore the benefits of ASMR sounds if tuning out helps you tune in.
Close your eyes if you can and focus on inhaling with slow prolonged exhales, this triggers your parasympathetic nervous system to enter homeostasis.
Too much pressure to focus for you? Bring in a distraction! Put on a rerun of your favorite show! Remember, the goal is to support safety and re-pair that with penetration. For me it was Grey’s Anatomy for the third watch through. Taking your mind off what your doing also allows your mind to forget that anxiety. There is nothing wrong with a good distraction if it helps break the fear, anxious, reaction cycle.
Lube is your bestie, but only if you are using the right kind. I highly recommend Slippery Stuff Water Based Gel it is long lasting, non-staining and water based. Avoid lubricants that are not water based as they can cause irritation. Some women prefer to use natural lubricant such as almond oil. Find which lube works for you and embrace it.
Be prepared for after, get out the cool and warm arsenal. The body loves warmth so a heating pad on your lower back after dilating can help integrate the state of relaxation. If you have vuvlodynia then get out the ice packs and frozen peas! It’s better to be prepared to integrate a positive sensation after dilating then to let that sensation go. I had vulvodynia too and after dilating I “iced” regardless if I needed to for a long time to make sure I would still feel okay afterwards.
Awareness is the first step to change! Notice your small successes. Whether your binging Netflix or super zenned out; if that dilator is in there and you’re okay - affirm that! Say to yourself “Hey - I got it all the way in and my muscles are relaxed”!
Patience is key even though it’s tough. I know, it sounds like cold comfort and yet it is the truth. A setback is only one small thing unless you let it grow into mountain. Hit a wall in your progress? Stop, shake it off, move on to something fun because setbacks will happen, the good news is they happens less and less often as you move through and past them.
Bring in a Pro if you feel you need the extra boost or if you are feeling unable to do this on your own. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, Pelvic Pain Specialists, Talk therapist, Sex Therapist, Somatic Therapists - whatever you feel is right for you. I had the help of two pro’s on my team.
Share your success stories either with a partner, a good friend or online! Speaking your successes out loud validates how wonderful they are.
I truly hope one of the tips above helps you calm your anxiety and start or improve your dilating at home. This condition is as unique to each of us as the women that endure and heal past it.