Holiday seasons around the world, while a happy period filled with anticipation, excitement, and nostalgia, can also bring with them an element of stress. Both good stress and bad stress can cause our nervous systems to become overwhelmed when we are not paying attention to how this stress is affecting us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Some examples of seasonal events that contribute to an increase in our stress levels include:
- Organizing family gatherings
- Impromptu parties or travel
- Un-foreseen financial expectations
- Cultural stories
- The emotional grief of losing a loved one that may resurface during the holiday season.
While one person may embrace these events, they can be a source of worry, stress, and anxiety for another. From the somatic perspective, only you know what it feels like to be you from the inside out. This is called your first-person perspective.
This holiday season, knowing that we tend to overschedule and end up snapping at our friends or family, feeling pain, tension, or emotionally overwhelmed with duty or sadness, we can choose to connect with our felt sensations through somatic movement. Identifying that sensation in the earliest stages, while there’s still time to shift it to a more positive fruitful response, can create a more joyful holiday season. When we choose to respond somatically we can speak to the stress response before it becomes habituated.
Somatic Movement is a comprehensive system for muscular function that also addresses mental and emotional stress helping to alleviate the effects of seasonal stress. When these stressors are not addressed, they can accumulate over time and manifest in what Dr. Thomas Hanna called Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA). SMA is a habituated response to physical, mental, or emotional stress and trauma. SMA shows up in a variety of ways that may leave us feeling physical pain, headaches, frustration, and anxiety. All of this can also lead to restless sleep.
Simple and easy to learn Somatic movements address the primary reflexes associated with accumulated stress. Hanna recognized that these responses manifest in 3 distinct patterns:
- Firstly, the startle response (fear) can show up in times of grief, working long hours at the computer, driving, or even cooking your holiday meal. This reflex can cause head, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Secondly, the landau reflex (action) is our get up and go, our happy muscles and “get things done” response. From holiday shopping, meal preparation or even dancing the night away, it’s our “ON” button that keeps us upright and moving forward. Habituation of this “action” reflex often manifests as lower back pain.
- The third reflex is called the trauma reflex ,and has to do with our sides. Carrying a child on one hip, accidents and injuries to one side, or simply the way we stand, can habituate this reflex. Lack of coordination between our sides shows up in compensatory patterns when we walk. Ease of movement requires that our sides coordinate.
As you navigate the upcoming holiday season, consider giving yourself the gift of a series of somatic movement classes, and learn specific somatic movements created by Dr. Hanna and other somatic pioneers that can easily address these primary reflexes. Shifting your perspective and bodily being from a reactionary state to a mindfully responsive place, where you can sense what you are feeling and choose how you want to respond.
End the cycle of holding on to tension that is the root cause of chronic muscular, mental, or emotional pain caused by stress. Whether it is seasonal or situational, learning these movements can help you reset your body’s involuntary or habituated response to life’s stressful circumstances.
Gift yourself the joy of a stress-free holiday season and share some wellness with MI Studio’s contribution to Balanced Body’s Healthy Mind Healthy Body campaign so that collectively we can mindfully embrace this season of celebrations with peace and grace.
Join me ONLINE Mondays December 5th, 12th, and 19th for 90 minutes of Somatic Movement to De-Stress your holiday season, recalibrate your mind and body, and set you up for a season of joyful celebrations.