How to go from distressed to destressed – wellbeing through release

This week, our Bristol Wellbeing College blogger, Chrissy talks about how important it is to let your emotions out loudly and proudly.

Catharsis noun
1. the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

Do you ever have one of those days where everything goes just a little bit wrong?

Even if there’s nothing really awful that you can pinpoint, by the end of the day you’re thinking “If one more thing goes wrong I’ll just scream”. But you don’t, because it’s not socially acceptable and there are healthier ways to express your consternation.

Well, the good people over at Scream Day think we’ve got the wrong idea.

Screaming, they argue, is not only a perfectly valid form of release, but a healthy one too.

According to psychotherapist Zoë Aston, BACP: “[Screaming] creates a chemical reaction that is similar to the one you get when you exercise—you get a dopamine hit and some endorphins going.”

So, while Scream Day is just one day of the year, why not make having a good old yell a regular thing? It’s for our health.

Wait, what?

This theory isn’t new. Screaming has been part of ancient Chinese Medicine Practice for more than 2000 years.

Nan Lu, a master herbalist and Qigong master, says that frustration can prevent the energy that feeds the liver from flowing. 

Dr Lu suggests that patients do a ‘Noisy Tree Shake’ to get this energy moving. If you want to try the Tree Shake (and, honestly, who wouldn’t), you can find a video of Dr Lu demonstrating the technique here.

But, why?

Renowned author and endocrinologist Dr Deepak Chopra’s theory of cellular healing revolves around catharsis.

Catharsis is a catch-all term for emotional release (like screaming) – releasing blocked emotions that build up in the body unconsciously due to stress.

It has been scientifically established that the body’s cells regenerate at different speeds. Skin cells are constantly regenerating, while the cells of the stomach and intestines are never more than 5 days old, and the liver gets a whole new batch of cells every 150- 500 days.

But, how can long term illnesses exist in these shiny new body parts, I hear you say?

This theory is based on the idea that we all possess ‘phantom memories’ stored within our cells. Stay with me.

These memories are related to trauma, and degenerative cells pass on these memories to the new cell – essentially creating a replica.

So, although your body parts might be getting all new cells, they’re coming in with generational trauma, and Dr Chopra believes that this is what we need to heal.

His research into survivors of serious illnesses found that participants were able to access cell memory and the associated negative emotion, which they resolved and released.

They were thus able to prevent the degenerative memory from being inherited by the next cell generation, resulting in a healthy, new cell. This is known as cellular healing.

Now, I know with the idea of ghost cells and their zombie spawn we’re veering dangerously into the realm of alternative medicine. But global trauma and PTSD centres actually use catharsis to speed up healing for trauma patients.

According to Babette Rothschild, the author of The Body Remembers, trauma patients who undergo therapy using catharsis also progress faster.

Mental vacation time

So how can one perform this cellular exorcism?

Dr Chopra suggests it’s all about dealing with pain.

His 7 step exercise to release emotional pain centres around meditation – sitting with your pain, acknowledging it and releasing it. For many of us, this process can be quite intense, difficult even.

A lighter version of it, presenting a low-impact tension break, is guided imagery.

During a guided imagery session, a therapist directs the focus of the imagery by verbalising instructions to encourage the patient to imagine a peaceful place including scents, textures, and sounds.

By exploring all five senses, the body and mind are engaged, breathing will slow down, and muscles are relaxed, resulting in calm.

The technique works on a number of levels.

Firstly, it works as a distraction. You can’t imagine a beautiful sunny forest walk and worry about your gas bill at the same time – believe me, I’ve tried.

Further, because you are actively prompting your body to act as if this safe, comforting environment is real, it begins to react in kind.

Over time, therapists are able to trigger this physiological response, simply by bringing you back to this imagined place.

Check out Relaxation Audio’s quick trip to the beach if you fancy giving it a go.

But I’m on a bus right now

Ok, so as useful as all this is, sometimes you need a quick tension release right the heck now and probably shouldn’t be taking mental trips to the beach or screaming yourself silly on public transport.

Here are some quick, unique ideas that focus on the senses:

  • Deep breath – a few deep breaths from the diaphragm has been proven to lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Get some grass under your feet – grounding (or ‘earthing’) doesn’t just feel nice, research has found that walking outside barefoot can help to regulate our automatic nervous system and activate the vagus nerve.
  • Massage your earlobes – this stimulates pressure points on the ear that make you feel alert, reduces muscle pain and, you guessed it, releases tension.
  • Eat crunchy things – that’s right, snacking is good for you. Having a crunch down on something relieves physical tension and can make you feel more relaxed. This also works with gum, which was found to significantly reduce cortisol in a 2008 study led by Andrew Scholey.
  • Try aromatherapy – our sense of smell bypasses our cognitive brain functions, so a strategic sniff of something comforting or relaxing can help to minimise tension quickly. Lavender in particular has been found to promote relaxation.
  • Connect with other people – social contact is an important stress reliever, offering distraction, providing support and releasing tension.

On that last point, if you’re looking for a social event literally focused on wellbeing, consider this your invitation to the Bristol Wellbeing College Wellbeing Event on the 25t May.

I did suggest a scream-based activity, but haven’t had a response yet for some reason? However there definitely will be all kinds of tension-relieving activities, including crafts and singing.

If you fancy popping in for a lovely chat and some fun, do it! For health reasons is nothing else.

Until next time mates

Chrissy xxx

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