Shake It Out Stress Release
13th April, 2010
More and more counsellors and psychotherapists are discovering that the best way to understand issues like stress is to understand how the body works – the sympathetic and the para-sympathetic nervous systems, stress hormones like cortisol, how all these elements work together and then of course how they impact our emotions. Our minds and bodies work together, sometimes the best intervention is a physical one, halting the stress response in its tracks so we have more resources available to us to then tackle our emotions.
In order to understand stressful events in our lives and to be able to cope with then better, it's helpful to understand what the body is doing and why. Hormone receptors in the brain hold onto stress hormones, like cortisol, for up to 6 hours after they’ve been released. That means that you continue to feel the stress response long after the trigger has gone away. Ever noticed how a stressful start can end up triggering a really bad day? Well, this is part of the reason why.
So what can you do about it? You can shake it out! Having a shake out stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which controls the fight-or-flight response and encourages it to release the residual tension from your body. The hormone receptors in your brain get told to stop their uptake of the stress hormones, which stops you feeling stressed. It's like putting up a cease and desist order!
You’ll see animals doing this a lot if you look carefully. Watch two dogs in the park have a face off…barking, jumping at each other, getting ready to fight. As soon as the danger passes you’ll often see the dogs dive to the ground and have a good roll around. They are literally shaking and rolling out the remaining stress hormones they no longer need because the threat has passed.
So what can you do? Well, start by shaking out the wrists, up to the arms, roll your head around, shimmy those shoulders and carry on the shake out right through your body down your legs and ankles. Finish off with a deep breath in, exhaling as you bend down at the waist letting your head hang. Deep breath in as you stand up straight nice and slowly. If you're at work, it might be a good idea to sneak of to the loo to do this one, as it needs to be a vigorous shake for you to really get the benefit!
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