Why Zebras don't stress & how you can too

I first heard about his natural stress relief method when Dr. Peter Levine told his story of being in a bomb shelter during a raid.

He noticed that some of the other people he was with were beginning to rock their torsos back and forth to comfort themselves. Others were trembling or their muscles were twitching.

He had previously observed that wild animals rarely show stress despite ongoing threats from predators because they literally ‘shake it off.’ After the lion is gone, the zebras shake their entire bodies… and then go back to eating the grass.

Dr. Levine’s method involves allowing our bodies to discharge our trauma or stress in much the same way.

Literally ‘shake it off’

He explains it like this:

“When fight and flight are not options, both animals in the wild and humans freeze and immobilize, like “playing dead.”

This makes them less of a target. The freeze and collapse response is time-limited; in other words, it needs to run its course and allow the massive energy that was prepared for fight or flight to discharge through spontaneous gentle inner shaking and trembling.

If the immobility phase does not complete, then that charge stays trapped, and, from the body’s perspective, is still under threat and often continues to perceive the world from that perspective.

Somatic Experiencing® works to release this stored energy and turn off this threat alarm that causes dysregulation and dissociation.”

I took one of Dr. Levine’s classes and can summarize it for you.

Remember the ‘build your leg strength for the ski season’ exercise where you imagine sitting in a chair with your back up against a wall – but there’s no chair? And remember how you were told to stay there until your muscles started to twitch or give out?

Besides building muscle strength, this exercise also tires the muscles so they can then let built-up tension go.

I now find however, after understanding the concept, that I can just lie in bed, relax my muscles, and ALLOW them to gently jerk or twitch, the way we sometimes do naturally when we’re about to drift off to sleep.

With practice, this is such a compassionate way to let our bodies unwind and let that built-up stress release.

Turn on some soothing music and give yourself half an hour to experience a natural way your body can heal, given the ‘go ahead.’

It may sound odd but remember wild animals do it all the time.

Let me know how it works for you.

Here’s wishing you more ability to relax, despite our stressed-out world!

Being able to relax is the first step in allowing more of a sense of calm, and good things, into our lives, Judy

More on Dr. Levine’s program and philosophy here:


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