Ah, the stress of modern life. Do you notice how it manifests in your body and causes you to have greater urges to pick your skin, pull your hair or bite your nails? Very often physical or emotional stress triggers the tendon guard reflex, whose purpose is to ready us to fight, freeze or flight in danger. It was originally meant to keep us safe from primitive dangers like wild animals, but now this reflex is triggered by a whole host of modern stressors. (Did someone cut you off on the road this morning when you were already stressed about being late for work to give a presentation to a bunch of people whom you fear will criticize your work? Ahhh! That’s four stressors all at once!)
Then, if you’re sedentary, the tension triggered by the tendon guard reflex stays in your body. It travels up the back of the body from its origin in the achilles tendon to lodge in your butt, lower back, shoulders, neck, jaw and head, resulting in backache, headache or TMJ pain. And it also causes us to stay emotionally tense as well, which manifests in innumerable negative ways.
What to do? Here’s a nice little tendon guard release. This is from the excellent book Making the Brain/Body Connection by Sharon Promislow. Sit in a chair and lift one leg up (legs bent), noticing how easy or hard this is and how high the leg goes. Put it down and repeat with the other leg. Then grab your achilles tendon (it feels like a rope right above your heel) and pluck it repeatedly. It may be ouchy! Do the other one too, and then repeat the noticing exercise. Did you lift your leg higher and more easily? That’s because you have released some of the tenson along the whole back of your body.
Relieving physical stress is an important part of stopping any body-focused repetitive behavior. If we don’t relieve the stress by other means, our body’s habitual go-to for stress relief is our skin picking, hair pulling or other behavior. And that only works temporarily and then we need to do it again and again in a vicious cycle. If you are serious about learning to stop your behavior, read about my coaching program.
Love and support,
p.s. Have you downloaded my free “Freedom Kit”? It comes with a written and audio report, “Why you pick your skin and how to finally stop,” a video on “how to stop skin picking urges in two minutes flat,” and my “Live Free” newsletter in your inbox each month. Learn more here.