Image Description: A red cartoon heart with white arms gives a self-hug.
A Stress Relief/Trauma Life Hack*:
Give yourself a hug.
Sure, you may feel silly, but try to put that away for a few reasons: 1) It’s good to give yourself self-compassion, 2) no one is watching, and most importantly, 3) this has great health benefits because it releases stress.
When we hug, our brains reduce chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine (big, feel good chemicals) and you know what? While it’s certainly great to hug another person, our brains don’t fully know the difference between an other-people hug and a self-hug, especially if we place good intentions of self care into that hug. Some are sheltering-in-place alone, and this is genuinely helpful.
Hugs also stimulate the vagus nerve. Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of activating the parasympathetic nervous system (it calms our fight or flight responses). The vagus nerve is a special hack to know about, because it plays a big role in that system. When we hug, we stimulate pressure points in our skin called pacinian corpuscles, and these receptors fire signals to the vagus nerve. Among other things, the vagus nerve plays a role in regulating blood pressure. Hugs, including self-hugs, activate this system and frequently, lower blood pressure.
So give yourself a hug. Give it a try!
* I want to thank Shannon Dingle for a series of tweets she did in which she gave some valuable ‘trauma life hacks.’ I’m borrowing her phrase, so I want to give a nod to her work and her Twitter handle: @ShannonDingle