Humans Response to Stress
Humans, just like animals, are constantly seeking safety and running away from threat. We all have a very primal response that is performed spontaneously whenever we are under a perceived danger. Even though the ways of responding to stress are similar to animals, humans perceive stress differently. We may consider work, relationships or a specific situation in our lives as being ‘threatening’.
Psoas: The Fight and Flight Muscle
When we feel under stress or in danger, our body has many chemical reactions, releasing stress hormones and increasing blood flow to specific muscles of our body to prepare us to either fight or run away. An important set of muscles used in this process is the psoas muscle, which is located in our hip area, connecting our legs, pelvis and spine and stand guard to protect the centre of gravity of the human body.
During any traumatic or stressful experience, the psoas muscles contract in order to roll the body into a ball protecting the underbelly of the body from harm. When the psoas muscle doesn’t return to a relaxed state after the stressful event, they remain vulnerable to continued stimulation from even minor amounts of stress, setting up a vicious cycle of endless stress and anxiety. This chronic tension can also lead to psychosomatic issues such as chronic diseases, physical pain, and gastro-intestinal problems.
Photo 1. The psoas muscle. Source: Body Divine Yoga
The Stress and Anxiety Loop
For all humans, just like animals, after the stressful situation is over, the nervous system should naturally activate itself and begin to shake out any residual chemicals or tension remaining from the perceived traumatic episode. This shaking sends a signal to the brain informing it that the danger has subside and it can now turn off its alert status. If the nervous system does not activate itself, the body continues to remain in a kind of short circuit loop with the brain continuing to believe it is still in danger and therefore continuing to command the body to stay in a state of defensiveness, readiness and alert.
Shaking the Stress Away
To release the charge and to heal those physical trauma contractions, this deep set of muscles must let go of their protective tension and return to a relaxed state. One of the key ways in which we can release the accumulated stress in our body and return to a state of equilibrium is to literally shake the stress away. All the animals do it, so why shouldn’t we? With no doubt, human beings are also programmed to shake off the excess energy in their bodies. Therefore, you need to let loose your inhibitions and shake off your tension.
Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE®)
Created by Dr David Berceli, TRE consist of six simple exercises that are designed to stress the psoas muscle (also known as hip flexor muscle) that reply purely on the body’s natural ability to trigger tremors. This releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this natural mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance. This therapeutic tremoring helps the body release deep muscular patterns of stress, tension, and even trauma.
Photo 2. TRE Exercise #7. Source: https://traumaprevention.com
Reported benefits of TRE
- Less Worry, Anxiety and Stress
- Better Sleep
- More Energy & Endurance
- Reduces Symptoms of PTSD
- Improved Relationships
- Reduced Muscle & Back Pain
- Increased Flexibility
- Greater Emotional Resiliency
- Decreases Symptoms of Vicarious Trauma
- Healing of Old Injuries
- Lessened Anxiety surrounding Serious Illness
- Relief from Chronic Medical Conditions