Learn how positive experiences in the body have the power to system-override negative ones.
“Trauma is in the body, not the event.”
When a gazelle encounters a lion, what does she do? She runs! She processes the threat, which triggers a physiological response—heart pounding, breath quickening, muscles tensing, adrenaline and cortisol flooding the bloodstream. Her trauma response allows her to flee the stressor, the lion. It also allows her to complete the stress response, purging her bloodstream of built-up stress hormones.
When we encounter “lions” in our lives (the anxiety of shelter in place, the grief of collective loss, the pain of systemic racial and gender inequities, the chronic stress of an abusive environment), “running” doesn’t always feel like the appropriate response. As a result, we don’t always complete the stress response and the built-up stress hormones get trapped. This explains the adage, “Trauma is in the body, not the event.”
Fight, flight, freeze and fawn.
When I coach parents and professionals on utilizing trauma-informed practices with their youth, we talk about the trauma responses—fight, flight, freeze and fawn—and how they might show up in our spaces both similar to and distinct from how they show up in the animal kingdom. For example, physical fights among peers, escapism through drug use, hiding under a desk, fawning over a teacher in an attempt to stay on their “good side.” While we may not be able to protect our youth from their stressors, we can provide them with opportunities to complete their stress responses.
Zoom-ba as a trauma-informed practice.
In “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle,” sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski write that physical activity is the single most effective way to complete the stress response. Girls Leadership recognizes that positive experiences in the body have the power to system-override negative ones. That’s why Girls Leadership offered Zoom-ba, and online dance class.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski also point out the benefits of intentional breathing, positive social interaction, cuddling with an animal, sleeping, and affection (specifically a six second kiss and a twenty second hug!), or anything that signals to the brain that the body is safe—emphasizing that there isn’t “one right way.” In addition, dance provides an opportunity for play, silliness and full self-expression, which too often are discouraged in women in girls.
At a time when so many of us are stressed, let’s take the time to de-stress together. Our free Zoom-ba classes ran for two months straight but are paused for the summer. We’ll be dancing and moving in our Online Summer Camp if you want to join us. Or, check out Learn to Step Dance with Girls Leadership Educator & Soul Steps Founder, Maxine Lyle.