Healthy Mind

I Tried Shaking Out My Body for a Month To Release Stress and Trauma—Here’s What Happened

Photo: Stocksy / Lucas Ottone
Most people will experience trauma, with The National Council for Mental Well-Being revealing that 70 percent of adults have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives. While most will recover after short-lived symptoms like shock and distress, others will face longer-term effects such as PTSD. “When we complete the stress cycle, the stress hormones activated in our system eventually settle,” says Madeline Lucas, LCSW, a clinical content manager and therapist at Real. “However, after experiencing trauma, this re-regulating may not happen, which keeps us stuck in this supercharged fight-or-flight state—as if we’re still in danger.”

I was recently scrolling through TikTok and came across a viral video from Yulia Rose, a Tantric coach. The clip saw her shaking out her body while at the beach, while she explained how just five minutes of daily shaking could help heal stored trauma. So for the past month, I’ve taken it upon myself to do just that.

Can shaking really release stress and trauma?

I am someone with stored trauma. For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to process and express my emotions. (I’m also a Capricorn, if that helps paint a better picture.) I was quite intimidated before I started this experiment. Was it just another TikTok craze or was I actually going to feel a difference? According to Lucas and certified life coach Alyssa Herrmann, shaking out your body is no gimmick.

“Shaking your body to release stress and/or trauma is commonly referred to as somatic therapy,” explains Herrmann. “The saying of ‘shake it off’ actually holds so much power as it regulates your nervous system. [It] releases any built-up adrenaline, suppresses/oppresses emotions, and connects you to your body while decompressing your mind.”

Lucas describes our trauma and stress as something that clogs up our system. “This charged fight-or-flight energy gets locked up and keeps us stuck on high alert,” she says. “ Shaking out the body allows us to unclog some of that stored energy by completing the stress response and discharging that energy. Engaging our bodies physically through intentionally shaking, tapping, and stretching activates our parasympathetic nervous system and communicates that we are safe and the danger has passed.”

At first, I felt stupid

The first day I tried shaking out my body, I didn’t even know how to move. Five minutes felt like a lifetime. Was I meant to wiggle, jump, stretch, or do the robot? I had no idea. My ego and subconscious quickly got the better of me, and I felt ridiculous, which added to my stress.

Taking a step back to reevaluate, I put on some music and had a dance party, focusing on shaking. It was much more my speed. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I dance, I feel so happy, relaxed, and energized as it regulates my nervous system. Shaking does just that.

“Stress and trauma up-regulate the body’s automatic nervous system, which causes an increase in adrenaline, cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure,” says Herrmann. The life coach, who recently shared a video on how to do it, added, “Shaking out the body helps to bring you back to the present moment, which is where you can connect to your breath and body, and find safety in the now.”

As I knew I was testing this for a month, the idea of daily shaking quickly became something on my to-do list. It was scheduled in my calendar, and while I felt fine at the time, it still felt like a chore. But a few days in, I had a morning where my anxiety was peaking high. I had tried my usual anxiety-relief exercises, but nothing was working, so I tried moving up my 3 p.m. shaking appointment to that moment. It worked. Even though I was moving about like a cardio workout, my heart palpitations decreased, my body started to reset, and my anxiety slowly drifted away. I was shocked and immediately converted.

Long-term shaking

I have to be honest: I’m still not in a formed habit of effortlessly incorporating shaking into my day. I also found it difficult to intentionally bring up my traumas each day to shake them out. I’m still a work in progress, but I know it works, and I know how important it is to deal with those experiences and emotions. “Holding onto stress and trauma can result in psychological and biological changes in our body, which impacts how we engage with the world,” says Lucas. “There is also an impact found in the brain in how we consolidate memories, perceive stress in our environment, how our nervous system regulates itself, and more.”

The good news is that shaking can be done by everyone and there are no dangers in trying it out. Just ensure you feel safe and continue the grounding moment following the exercise, choosing an activity such as enjoying a cup of warm tea. “The essential part of any work with our nervous system is to be able to slow down and reground ourselves,” shares the Real therapist. “Just make sure you are somewhere comfortable and safe in your physical space and have enough time to take a few deep breaths after shaking it out.”

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