MONROE — How do you feel, physically, when you’re stressed?
Do you clench your jaw? Can you feel your muscles tighten? Does your heart begin to race or your stomach begin to cramp?
It’s widely known that stress can have an effect on our mental health. It can also affect physical health, too.
During stress, the nervous system goes into a “fight or flight response” when there is an actual or perceived threat to our well-being. Chronic stress can take a toll on the body with physical symptoms such as; high blood pressure, weak immune system, difficulty sleeping and more, according to Cleveland Clinic — a “nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education,” per their website.
Betsy Ross is an advanced Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) provider who explained that when in stressful situations, our bodies “charge us up” to respond to a threat. Ross has a practice in Monroe and Waxhaw called Restorative Healing. The Monroe location is at 107 Winchester Avenue and the Waxhaw location is at 101 E. Waxhaw Professional Park Drive.
“We used to fight our way out of something physically or we used to run away from it. We don’t do that anymore,” Ross said. “We just sit here, clench our jaw and take it.”
“Our body charges up, but we don’t get a chance to complete that cycle and do the discharge,” she added.
The adrenaline, cortisol circulating in our nervous system causes our bodies to be “on high alert” which takes an absorbent amount of energy to maintain our body at a high alert state which leads to the physical systems of stress.
She joked that, unfortunately, we’ve been socialized to believe that it is unacceptable to punch someone when we’re upset with them.
TRE was created based on research by Dr. David Berceli, PhD. According to the TRE website (traumaprevention.com), it “safely activates a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance.”
Benefits of TRE include; less worry and anxiety, relief from chronic medical conditions, reduced muscle and back pain, better sleep, improved relationships, greater emotional resiliency and it can decrease symptoms of vicarious trauma and more, the website states.
It’s non-invasive, there are no prescribed medications and clients can request to not be touched during a session. TRE sessions last about an hour and can be done either virtually or in-person. Too, multiple people can attend a session — family members, couples, friends can attend a session together.
Ross said it takes about three to six month of regular practice to see results.
In an article published by Carolina Fire Journal, Ross described what a TRE session is like.
“First we review any medical conditions, injuries or physical restrictions to make sure you are safe during the exercises. Clinically trained TRE providers are able to modify or adjust the sequence to meet your individual needs. Whether in a group or a private session, it can be customized to the needs of each person, no matter the age or ability level,”
“The exercises are designed to gently stretch and fatigue major muscle groups, which assists in activating the tremors or shaking mechanism. You’ll lie comfortably on the floor, usually on a yoga mat, while the tremor mechanism works to bring balance back into your organism,”
“Your body does the work while the TRE provider monitors the process and checks in to keep you safe and make sure you’re comfortable. Your body uses your natural stress relieving mechanism while the provider guides you and teaches regulation and safety. You remain in control at all times and are able to slow down or stop the process whenever you wish.”
Ross shared an anecdote about one of her clients. Without revealing their identity, she said the client was a young man with Autism who had a constant, stern facial expression and spoke little. After his first session, his countenance changed to being happy and light and excitedly talked about all the people whom he would bring with him to his next session so they could experience the benefits of TRE.
Ross worked as a paramedic for 30 years. She loved being a paramedic, but it came with a price — nightmares, depression and anxiety attacks.
“I found myself withdrawing further and further inward behind the wall of protective coping mechanisms that had developed,” she wrote in the article.
She tried taking antidepressants, but said they were like “Band-Aids.”
She began her journey with TRE about four years ago. After trying antidepressants, she researched alternative treatments and came across TRE. She attended a workshop three days after learning about the practice, giving it a chance.
Ross’ first session went so well that she said she felt like she could “really breathe” and it felt as if a hundred pounds was lifted off her shoulders.
In 2018, she became a certified TRE provider and is now becoming certified to teach TRE to future providers. It takes a year to become certified.
Ross believes medication like antidepressants can help people who need it. Too, she believes talk therapy can be a benefit to people’s lives. People can choose to do TRE exclusively or use it as a supplement to their medication and/or therapy. It’s also an avenue for people who may have concerns about being stigmatized for seeing a therapist.