How to Undo Your Constant Stress — Hint: Don’t Get Startled

5 Tips for Undoing the Startle Reflex:As you’re reading this, you might be hunched at the computer and noticing a strain in your neck, back or shoulders.

  • Are your shoulders creeping up toward your ears when your hands are on the keyboard?
  • Do you have a turtle-neck (chin jutting forward, head tilting back) from staring at the screen?

Both of these are signs of the startle reflex, also called the “fight or flight” reflex. This reflex comes into play naturally when we are in danger or afraid.

Our shoulders come up, our head tilts back, and cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline are released. This increases heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and dilates air passages so we are able to fight or run.

Unfortunately, many of us are so stressed and out-of-balance we’re in a permanent state of fight or flight. We might not even realize that we are, because the pattern is so ingrained in our being.

Fortunately, you can do something about it, in or out of the saddle

5 Tips for Undoing the Startle Reflex:

  1. Just pause wherever you are for a moment. Bring gentle attention to your shoulders and neck without trying to change anything. Just notice. Rest your hands gently on your lap.
  2. Bring your attention to the sitting bones of your pelvis. They’re like rockers, and let you move forward or back easily. Get a sense of them connecting with the chair.
  3. Bring your attention to the space on either side of you, the space behind you, the space over your head, and the chair, floor, ground and planet beneath you. Often we’re aware of only what’s in front of us (especially if it happens to be a screen).
  4. Now, notice where your feet are. Are they wrapped around your chair? Place them flat on the floor, about hip’s width apart. If your feet don’t reach the floor, scoot forward a bit on the chair seat until they do.
  5. Next, think of your head resting gently on the top of your spine. Place your fingers right behind your ears. Nod your head very slightly a few times. Think of your whole head rotating on the axis between your fingers. Think to yourself: “let my neck be free”.

Do you notice anything different? Maybe you notice you’re not holding your breath. Maybe that twinge in your neck has subsided. Perhaps you’re not hunching so much or you feel less stressed.

Try these tips the next time you mount up, and see what you notice!

About Emily Clark

Feel free to use this article in your newsletter or on your website or blog. Just make sure to include the bio and link below at the end of the article.

Emily Clark, of, is an Alexander Technique Certified Instructor who teaches horseback riders of all disciplines to eliminate pain and improve their posture so they can ride as one every ride.

She’s worked with equestrians for over 11 years. She loves working with riders because they’re so passionate about what they do.

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