Shake Your Way to Stress Relief?

When I was younger, I’ve mentioned before, I was a competitive swimmer. The competitive swimming world is a fairly small one, and you’d frequently find yourself swimming against a lot of the same people from meet to meet.  There was this one fellow that I remember distinctly who, when he was in line waiting for his event, would never sit on the bench with the rest of us (as the people who were trying to shuffle fifty kids to the blocks one heat at a time would have preferred).  Instead, he would stand up next to the rest of us and constantly shake his arms and legs. Over his head, at this sides, swinging them around and around, and generally never ceasing to move. I used to refer to him as “Mr. Shake.”

I used to to think that guy was freaking nuts until I noticed something:

Mr. Shake would regularly beat everyone in whatever heat he was in.

It wasn’t long before I took on the same habit, and it worked. Maybe I didn’t win every heat, but I felt awesome every time I raced and didn’t have the nerves that a lot of kids did before a race.  I still do it when I’m getting ready for a race of any kind, including my obstacle course races. I always figured I was keeping my body loose and stretched by doing that, and that’s what was doing the job.

Well, last week I was talking about the Fat Burning Man podcast where Abel James was interviewing Dr. Pedram Shojai (the post about falling on your face in the mud).  Another thing that Dr. Shojai (I’m gonna call him Pedram because I have this feeling he’d tell me to, based on the numerous interviews I’ve heard him in) suggests is that when you’re feeling stressed out at work, walk away from your desk for a bit.  Take a deep breath, and then as you’re exhaling, shake your body vigorously.  Do this for a couple of minutes, then get back to what you’re doing and you’ll feel better – refreshed, and more.

Shaking dog

Animals shake off when they’re nervous by instinct. Perhaps our bodies are telling us something?

Pedram compares this to what he observed in the wild when he was on safari in Africa. He’d watch a gazelle’s behavior after a lion or something tried unsuccessfully to chase it down for a meal. After the predator gave up and went to look for something older and sicker to snack on, the gazelle would stop and literally shake its entire body vigorously for a minute or so, and then it’d be back to normal.  Like a dog coming out of the water and shaking itself off to dry, these gazelles would totally spaz out and shake from front to back… and then they’d be on their way, the nervous energy gone and ready to continue living.

Feeling anxious? Is your body shaking? Shake it harder and give those nerves the heave-ho! Click To Tweet

At the risk of setting up an earworm for you the rest of the day, Taylor Swift may have had it right (no, I won’t link to the song, but I’ll link to this one to help drive it out of your head).  When you’re being stressed out by the world around you, you have a ton of nervous energy that is swarming over you.  You want to go work out, or lash out at the world angrily, or somehow get that energy out of your system. Your body is screaming at you for a reset.

Stress kills

Stress is a killer. Read more to learn a quick, easy way to overcome it with a good shake!

Or you’re so nervous that your body is shaking on its own. You almost can’t stand still because you’ve got ants running up and down your back, and your skin is tingling with anger or fear or whatever nervous energy is coursing through you.

So shake.

Take a minute – walk away, and stand still. Take a deep breath (and do it from the diaphragm, obviously). Then as you’re exhaling, shake your arms, legs, and trunk as vigorously as you can. Swing those arms and legs around in front of you and behind you.  Walk in place slowly and shake those legs with each step. Roll your neck around. Don’t hurt yourself, but move that whole body and do it vigorously.  Do this for a minute or so and then get back to the job at hand.

See how it works for you. I was feeling a little overwhelmed this morning after arriving at work and thinking about everything I had to get done today, but after a minute of walking down the hall, breathing deeply and shaking my arms and legs, I was much better. The nerves were gone, and I was ready to go.

I know so many people who try to still their bodies and just breathe their way through a nervous situation. It takes them forever, they lose tons of energy fighting the shakes, and they’re exhausted when it happens.  As I’ve said before, our bodies want to move – to the point where they’re shaking involuntarily trying to get our minds to play along.  Your body shakes when you’re nervous because that’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s a hint to do just that – so amp it up.

So, here’s what I do before I race or when I’m feeling the nerves starting to course through me. I move from top to bottom.  I swing my arms around. I rotate my wrists, elbows, shoulders, feet, and trunk in all directions.  I roll my neck and turn it back and forth. I give my hands and feet good flicks as I go, getting that blood moving.

Word of caution – if you’re a vigorous shaker like me, make sure your ring(s) are secured. I have literally flung a ring across the room because I was flicking my hands so hard when I shake. 

Have you ever shaken your body so hard you've nearly lost jewelry? It's a great way to beat stress! Click To Tweet

Seriously, try this for a couple minutes. You are going to feel energized and ready to go. I filmed this thing about twenty minutes ago and I still am feeling it. It’s almost like a little workout: good for the mind and the body.

Do you have any stress rituals/treatments you’d like to share? Have you tried this technique? Let us know how it works for you! And then share below, or in our new message boards!