Who knew that something so simple and free could relieve stress.
After the last few years, we have felt incredibly powerless, at times isolated, lonely, unsure, scared even and uncertain of what is to happen next. Whether it was the overconsumption of social media, the news or political conversations among friends and colleagues in the workplace, or just waiting for the next shoe to fall. All of it has had an impact on our nervous system. Figuring our how to relieve stress and practice self care in these trying times is vital.
Fight or Flight
So many people have been sent into a traumatic fight or flight response. This fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response is an acute stress response to a perceived event which is going to impact you by feeling powerless; terrified; perceived impending emotional, physical, or verbal abuse and then the need to protect yourself and relieve stress. Some people in these situations fight, they meet aggression with aggression. Some people do not know what to do and so they just observe and internalize everything and might even personalize the experience believing that they did something to deserve it. Some might just run away and then just bury the experience deep in themselves to not speak about. Some will people please and agree with others to avoid conflict and then not be their authentic self or believe that this will gain approval and keep them safe. All these reactions have an impact on the nervous system and stress levels. Your autonomic nervous system recognizes the perceived threat and kicks in with hormones to “protect the body.” I have often joked to kids that adrenaline released into the bloodstream is like releasing an army into your body to do what it can to protect you from harm and relieve stress. It floods and then when it cannot find the danger that it was sent to look for it tends to just make you feel anxious and sick. As the anxiety wears off you start to feel drained and even depressed. The body cannot maintain a high for exceptionally long without crashing down. This cycle can go on and on.
Free Hugs to Relieve Stress
All these responses can be intense, and, in some people, they can feel debilitating as well as isolating. We know that isolation can be very damaging both physically and mentally. It is human nature to desire physical touch and feel like you belong. We have forgotten the healing power of touch. Did you know that hugs increase oxytocin in the body which reduces stress hormones and lowers your blood pressure? Did you know that hugging can stimulate the brain to release dopamine which helps you feel better and safe? Hugs can reveal various levels of affection, but also can relieve stress. A woman is more likely to give a full body embrace to someone that she cares the most about and wants them to feel safe and secure (a nurturing instinct). Not to say that men do not do this as well, it is just less socially acceptable (but please Bro-hug all day). A twenty second hug can help reduce someone’s sense of depression, loneliness, increase their sense of security and having been seen, increase trust and self-esteem. Hugs are free. There are many ways to “hug.” You can and should always ask someone if they would accept a hug. Do not ask if they want one because some people do not believe that they deserve them. Give a hug because you mean them compassion, not to do it just to do it.
Respect their boundaries and their body. You can hug shoulders. You can hug waist. You can side hug. You can hold their hands. You can hold their arms near their elbows like knights used to. You can ask to hold their face. You can just sit close so that they feel you nearby. In short, hugs heal and relieve stress. They are good for everyone, and everyone has one (or more) to give.
Are You Stressed?
If you find yourself searching for ways to relieve stress this is just one of many ways to do so. Our therapists are experienced in working with their patients to overcome stress related to emotional, depression, anxiety, and more. Schedule an appointment with one our team members and start living the stress free live you deserve.