Have you ever done the Hokey Pokey (or as Jon tells me, the Hokey Cokey if you’re British)? It’s a children’s song that picks one body part at a time and has everyone “shake it all around.” Then everyone sings,
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.
The final verse says to “put your whole self in,” which is my favorite verse because you get to shake your whole body and look completely silly.
Many years after I started singing this song, I was surprised to learn that shaking your body is actually an excellent response to stress that wild animals use to come down after a shock. For example, if a deer is attacked, it will first freeze in fear (hence the term “deer in the headlights”), then hopefully run away. If it survives, it will go find a quiet, safe place and let its body tremble and convulse until the stress response is dissipated.
I’ve actually tried this, and it works.
When I get upsetting emails or text messages, as I sometimes do, my first response is for my body to freeze, my heart to start racing, and thoughts of panic to run through my mind. I’ve learned to recognize that this is a signal that I need to calm my reaction down before taking any action.
So often I will go find a private space, close the door, and wiggle it all out. I really let loose! It doesn’t matter how ridiculous I look because no one is watching. And after I’m done shaking, I definitely feel calmer and ready to continue on with whatever life brings.
If you have any stress in your day today, why not take a wise lesson from the noble deer and the Hokey Pokey? Find a quiet corner and wiggle. Jump. Convulse. Jitterbug. Shimmy and wibble around. (Of course, if you have injuries, be mindful of how you move your sore parts.)
It may not be “what it’s all about,” but shaking your body could be a useful tool to add to your emotional resilience toolbox. I hope it helps you!