The Holiday Season: Warm Fuzzies or Sore Shoulders?

Why are most people sore when you rub their shoulders? Hanna of Somatics believes that we constantly perceive stress - chronically activating the Red Light Reflex. What can you do this holiday season to be good to your body?

454By: Dr. Eric Keene PT, DPT, CSCS

It’s that time of year again – which means you’re either sharing the excitement that comes around this time of year, you’re indifferent, or you despise it.  As for me, I like Christmas music and the smell of a fresh Christmas tree much more than most young Jewish males.  No matter your feelings on the holidays, this can be a stressful time of year with traveling to relatives, planning meals, and buying gifts.  Without making it too complicated, prolonged stress can take a toll on our bodies.

According to the work of Seyle and Thomas Hanna of “Somatics: Awakening the mind’s control over the body”, we have a main distress response he calls “The Red Light Reflex”.  Let’s use an extreme example:

Imagine you’re walking in the woods at night alone.  You hear something behind you.  Startled, you turn around.  Nothing but darkness.  You turn to continue walking and boom! Dead.agh

You can see why my 8 year old aspirations to become the next Stephen King did not work out.  Either way, think about yourself scared.  What does your body do?  Your teeth clench.  Your shoulders shrug.  Your breathing gets shallow.  Your body prepares to protect you from whatever it is that is a threat to your well-being.  Our scared response is a form of stress – and stress is a continuum.  One end is care-free. The other end is paralyzed with fear.  Generally to perform best, we want to be somewhere in the middle.

Why are most people sore when you rub their shoulders?  Hanna of Somatics believes that we constantly perceive stress – chronically activating the Red Light Reflex.  What can you do this holiday season to be good to your body?

  1. Recognize your response to stress.  If you feel even the tiniest bit of stress, start by controlling your breathing.
  2. Relax your jaw.  Normal resting position of the teeth should NOT be touching.  The tongue should rest against the roof of the mouth as if to say the letter “N”.
  3. Relax your shoulders down into your back pockets.  Distress can make us wear our shoulders as earrings.
  4. Go for a walk. Do some push-ups and Squats.  Exercise.  Just move.
Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.

Comments are closed.