Give Yourself A Break

Give Yourself A Break

Science has made some incredible impacts in being able to make this pandemic more bearable. We have come a long way since 2020 with vaccines and a greater understanding of how we can safely navigate and reengage with each other.

At the same time, the truth is after 19 months, we are nevertheless very much in a pandemic. There is still much that is unknown and may feel intimidating. Humanity’s collective physical and psychological nervous system is worn. Therefore, I am suggesting that you need to give yourself a break. Literally and figuratively.

Did you ever notice that wild animals don’t stress about things the way we do? They live in a threatening environment where predators can eat them at any moment, but they don’t seem chronically worried about it. Animals who live in the wild respond to stressful events in the moment, but after that event is over, they do something with their body to notify themselves that the threat is gone. If you have watched any nature documentaries or if you have a pet, you may notice that after an animal gets into a fight, it does this action with its body where it shakes. They do that in order to re-regulate!

“Completing the stress cycle” is a term used by Emily and Amelia Nagoski in their book Burnout. They talk about this issue and about how humans do not re-regulate or complete the stress cycle. Humans experience stress not usually because of events that are life-threatening, but because of day-to-day life demands. Our body doesn’t know the difference between a school/work deadline and a bear chasing us.  So many of us just hold onto these fears, and operate in the world, while in a perpetual state of stress.   So, what is the solution?

An easy way for you to re-regulate is to take an intentional break, and do something physical with your body. This will indicate to the body that it is safe. It can include literally shaking your arms and body (or as I like to say “a shake break”), or it could involve movements like dancing to a fun song, doing some stretching, taking a walk/run, or hugging a loved one. It just needs to be something physical in order to work out the stress. The action reminds your body that it is safe in the present moment and allows it to return to its baseline state.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we discuss distress tolerance skills in order to endure uncomfortable feelings. While this is incredibly helpful when one is in distress, I am suggesting to schedule time in your day to do mini “shake offs,” in order to rid yourself of whatever stress that you may have accumulated.

The trauma expert Laura van Dernoot Lipsky says, “by the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.” Therefore, I am inviting you to get ahead of your distress/stress and consider making this part of your daily routine.

Also, please give yourself (and possibly even others) a break, psychologically. We have all been through and are continuing to go through a lot. Let’s call it out—there was a general assumption that once we got a vaccination, our lives would go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. Then came Delta. Oh Delta, how you are doing wonders for our sympathetic nervous systems!

Therefore, I am also recommending that you allow yourself to be human in this experience. Your body does not need additional stress from enduring some harsh self-judgements. For those of you who’s inner critic is strong, maybe give that guy a break from his harsh monologue while simultaneously giving yourself a break with grace.

Authored by: Alison Trenk, MA, LCSW