My friend fell down the stairs the other day. She said she was shaken, scared, and starting to freak out. Then she thought of the video she'd watched in the Movement for Anxiety: Kid Edition course. In that moment, she remembered that when you are freaking out, you should move. She pictured the adrenaline and cortisol her nervous system had just dumped into her bloodstream, and she started to wiggle and shake. She shook and jumped and ran in a circle. And then? She felt better. It was over.
Another woman told me that she had been nervous just before a job interview and had used several of the techniques I'd taught her in an in-person Movement for Anxiety workshop. She balanced on one leg and held a few pressure points, and she did a simple neurodevelopmental movement in the chair in the waiting room. She sensed the nervousness leave her body and then was able to feel confident and focused.
Imagine how much healthier and more resilient we would be if we worked with our biology instead of against it, if we assisted the natural process of a stress cycle instead of stuffing down our feelings or trying to overcome them with positive thinking. As Deb Dana writes, "The mind narrates what the nervous system knows. Story follow state." If we want to change our state, we can't start with the story. As much as we want it to work, we often cannot come back into a balanced state by saying, "I'm safe. I fell down the stairs, but nothing is broken. I can walk to my car and not be embarrassed because no one saw me. Everything's fine."
The fight-flight mechanism is not turned off by the thinking brain but instead by neurocepting cues of safety from the environment. Movement, play, creativity, and co-regulation with a safe person are the fastest ways to give the body cues of safety. Getting educated about what's happening in your body during a period of stress-induced activation gives you the ability to administer heavy doses of self-compassion because you can easily see that what you are experiencing is in the service of safety. It's a shift from overriding your reactions with positive thinking into a space of honoring your reactions by giving your body what it needs to calm down. Befriend your biology!