When fear rules in our lives we get exhausted from being stuck in hypervigilance. Our body is on high alert, scanning for danger, primed to run away, fight or hide if needed. It’s exhausting and often there is no external threat. The message of danger, of threat, is coming from within the body.
Our past stresses, tensions and traumas get stored in the body if we weren’t able to deal with them at the time. If we couldn’t tell our boss what we really thought, if we couldn’t leave when we really wanted to, if we froze and avoided facing that really annoying person who we find draining – all of these are relatively minor incidents, but in each of them adrenaline and cortisol get released into our body priming us to act.
If we don’t take action the adrenaline and cortisol build up in our body leading to feeling stressed, tense, and anxious and if it builds up a lot or we experience a more significant shock or trauma, a near miss accident, an actual threatening situation with a violent person, a medical procedure that involves life threat or invasion of our body, cutting it open, broken bones or many other procedures this is Capital T trauma for the body. This can send us into overwhelm, into a sense of it all being too much and a need to escape from it, to dissociate or numb ourselves from the pain and challenge of it all. This is the body moving into freeze and collapse.
We need to release these stresses, tension and traumas so that they don’t build up, so that our bodies can live in a more relaxed state where socialising is easier, where our body can focus on digesting our food, repairing and restoring itself. This calm, relaxed state is called the parasympathetic ventral vagal state. Our body feels safe, relaxed and peaceful.
Many of us don’t live in that state very often anymore. We don’t get time to relax, to be, to drop down, slow down and feel what is going on inside. Many of us live hectic, fast, busy lives, so we stay in a state of low to medium stress and inner activation of our autonomic nervous system.
Many people use substances to try and get out of that worked-up, agitated or anxious state. Some use sex, gambling, alcohol, drugs or internet browsing as a way to distract themself from their inner turmoil. Some use yoga, baths, and time in nature or time with friends, pets and loved ones. All of these will help to calm your body. But if the underlying issues aren’t resolved your stress level will jump back up with the next trigger or challenge you face.
I used to have days when my body would be hyper-alert for no outside reason. Nothing had happened to stress me out above the norm. I wasn’t in danger. I was just trying to go to work and get through the day. Yet my body was jumping at any sound or movement nearby. I’d have days where I felt this rage inside of me and I knew I’d have to be extra mindful not to take that out on anyone who interacted with me that day. I’d be intolerant, grumpy and not much fun to be around. The anger radiated off of me warning people to watch out, keep their distance or else.
These reactions were not appropriate for the situation I was facing. I was safe, not in danger but my body was reacting as if I was in a war zone. This is because my nervous system was activated strongly and I had moved up into extreme fight and flight. Without taking action to reduce it I would soon move into exhaustion and collapse. I would go into numbness, depression, and feelings of why bother, it’s all too hard. In the early days this would lead to a negative spiral as I would lose hope and go into despair – why me, why is it so hard?
Nowadays I know if I start to move in that direction it is because my body is needing me to rest, pay attention to my inner world, and feel and release the emotions and tension stored inside. I learned and later qualified to be a practitioner of Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE), which is the body’s natural way of releasing stress, tension and trauma. It’s our body’s way of using up all the adrenaline and cortisol from stressful, scary, threatening moments so that our body can calm back down, can feel safe and relaxed again.
TRE is a process to activate this built-in mechanism that all mammals have. The body literally shakes and tremors spontaneously, to release the stress, tension and trauma. It uses up the adrenaline and cortisol from those fight and flight moments so that the activations get completed.
The tremors help to free up the frozen parts of us, the muscles that have locked up in fear and gone numb, disconnected from the whole. The tremoring helps to melt the ice so that energy can flow again. This helps to ease the pain as the muscles relax and blood flow increases.
TRE has become a Godsend for me. I have become more attuned to my nervous system and my body so that I can take action at the early stages of stress rather than waiting till there is a volcano of rage inside of me or a tornado of tears, grief and resentment. I have learned it’s safe to go into my body and be present with what I find, to love and honour my body and its needs. It’s helped me to ground and relax, to be more peaceful overall and of course, other people can feel that too. When my nervous system is calm and radiating safety and playfulness it invites others to do the same. It’s lovely to be in that gentle place and to return to it regularly after the inevitable stress and challenges of daily life.
TRE is taught worldwide and can be learned in 2-3 sessions. Once you have learned how to self-regulate your tremoring, you can use it at home whenever you want to help balance your body and find a greater sense of inner peace and calm.
There is even a free online self-study course. The course is suitable for those that haven’t experienced significant trauma and mental health challenges. Those that have are better off learning TRE with a practitioner like me just to make sure you can self-regulate your tremoring process and that you don’t ignore or over-ride your body’s signals of when to stop tremoring.
The below video is a brief introduction to TRE. If you would like to see some examples of people tremoring, access the free online course or book a session to learn TRE please visit https://www.jodiannemsmith.com/tre/