Did you know that most of our emotional suffering actually stems from buried stress and trauma that has become ‘locked’ in our physical bodies causing dysregulation within our nervous systems? Most of us, knowingly or unknowingly, carry deep-rooted emotional pain within the cells of our bodies which when triggered, can cause us to behave or react in ways that we don’t always understand.
Director of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, Dr Peter Levine, has spent forty years studying stress and trauma. He discovered many simple processes to release emotional pain, enabling the body to regain a state of equilibrium. His work is highly respected and regarded as the ‘missing link’ in trauma resolution. Dr Levine observed the behaviour of wild animals while in a state of ‘fight or flight’. An animal pursued by a predator will act in similar ways that we humans do – they’ll either run for their lives or stay and fight.
But the one difference between humans and animals, is that once out of immediate danger, an animal will instinctively shake its whole body for a moment. This simple act relieves the animal of the heightened energy created by the release of stress hormones induced by the fearful confrontation. The animal then goes about its business, seemingly unphased by the recent traumatic event.
You may also have observed this behaviour in animals, particularly if you have a pet dog. I’ve witnessed our dog Lu many times “shake it off” after confrontations which made his back hair stand on end. Unfortunately, we humans, seem to have ‘forgotten’ our ability to follow such instincts. Consequently, many of us carry an unhealthy build-up of traumatic energy which can ultimately contribute to a range of health problems.
We are often so busy multi-tasking during our time-poor days, so focused on cramming it all in that we don’t allow ourselves a few moments to self-regulate after a threatening or confronting event. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we should ‘have it all under control’ but the reality is, many of us face stressful moments that make our hearts race on a daily basis.
A simple way to discharge the fearful or negative energy, is to “shake it off”. When you are out of immediate danger, soon after a stressful situation, literally shake your body from top to toe. Stand up and shake your legs and feet, one at a time, then your body, arms, hands and head for a moment or two. Notice how relieved you feel. I also like to do this exercise just before bed as daily maintenance to rid my body of any lingering stress hormones accumulated from the day’s events.
So next time your heart starts to race or you break out in a sweat, take a moment afterwards to self-regulate with a good shake. You’ll feel instantly calmer, but you’ll also massively boost the future health of your body, mind and soul.
Onwards and upwards!