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Somatic Releases: A New Take on Letting It Flow

Credit: bottled_void, Flickr

Credit: bottled_void, Flickr

Have you ever heard of somatic releases? In a nut shell, our bodies emit adrenaline during moments of fear or trauma. If the body can’t fight or escape, then the person’s reaction to the stress can stay with them for years. Yes, your stress can literally stay with you and haunt the stuffins out of you.

I first learned of the idea when I started therapy a couple of years ago. I lost my father at a young age. Every time I even mentioned his name, I developed this uncomfortable lump in my throat. I was unable to cry. It would just burn and stop me from continuing. My therapist, who specializes in EMDR, started working with my body and memories to release the hurt I had stored in my body related to that pain. I had my doubts because I had never heard of such things, but it totally worked. Like seriously worked and now I can talk about that man — the good and the sad — without lumpy throat syndrome.

So I was aware of this release happening in therapy … when I was hooked up to little finger clickers, but I had NO clue that you could have a somatic release at the gym. (Doctors weren’t kidding when they said working out is great therapy.) The other day I was working out alone and heading into the fourth round of a very hard set. I took a minute to rest, and that’s when the tears started flowing. I don’t know what they were related to, but something was triggered by my workout. I was totally taken off guard. The tears wouldn’t stop. I sat, curled over and just wept my eyes out. It was the oddest thing.

It’s happened once before, but I was upset before I started working out so I just chalked it up to that. But this time I was happy and carefree — and the tears came anyway.

I felt totally awkward for my workout breakdown (Jimmy was screaming at me: “There’s no crying in baseball!“), but I knew it was needed. I’m not sure I got it all out either. Today is another tough workout. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be working out more than my muscles this time around …

What about you? Have you ever experienced a somatic release while working out? — Tish

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7 Comments
  1. Florence says:

    This sounds like a wonderful way to help me cope with my anxiety! I’ve never heard of a somatic release but now I’m definitely going to look more into how it can be of use to me. Thanks so much for the insight!

  2. KateL says:

    Yes, this has definietly happened to me! I was working out witha trainer a few years ago and he was asking me questions about my husband who had very unexpectedly walked out on me and disappeared (not literally. He went to New Orleans but just took off and I didn’t hear from him for months) very suddenly. I was doing some ab work with my knees on a stability ball and I was frustrated bc I wasn’t focused and kept rolling off the ball. The frustration definitely contributed to it, but the next thing I know I’m crying in the middle of the gym!!
    In the months after he left (and continuing on to today, 2.5 years later) the gym was my solace and I often cried there. I remember running on the treadmill and there was an episode of some show with Jennifer Love Hewitt on the tv. The sound wasn’t on, but she has such an expressive face, I just started crying while running. Like, sobbing. I told myself maybe people would think it was sweat.
    I am a therapist and I often say that my dream office will either have side by side treadmills in it or a pond or something Ic an walk around with my patients, because I think moving while processing emotions makes the whole situation much more effective for the patient. So glad you tried EMDR, it can get great results!

  3. I’m sure after everything was all said and done, you felt such sense of relief. I would agree that it is probably rather embarrassing to randomly burst into tears in public and not be able to control yourself but I’m sure the outcome was greater than the actual experience.

  4. Sarah says:

    Yoga does this to me sometimes! Luckily I generally do hot yoga so no one can tell if it’s sweat or tears running down my face. It’s definitely weird but makes you realize how much you hold on to, sometimes without even realizing it.

  5. Shelly says:

    Haven’t had that happen during a workout but I do agree with you – EMDR therapy is wonderful although it sounds really weird. I didn’t think it would help me either (I have anxiety issues following my cancer and the sudden death of my mom) and it helped quite a bit after regular talk therapy stopped being effective.

  6. FBG Tish says:

    You all are wonderful. For those who have done it and been blessed with possible sweat cover ups and those willing to try. It’s quite the experience. ..a bit overwhelming but so cathartic.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I thought it was just me. But it happens to me after my workout. I always wonder what happened to those happy endorphins everyone talks about.