How Your Posture Could Be Causing You Stress and Anxiety
Can our posture really cause us stress and anxiety? In a word, absolutely! At the very least, it can certainly worsen existing symptoms. It can also do the opposite. Here's the why and the how:
As the seasoned actor knows, as she changes her physicality, she can change the entire emotional trajectory of her character.
The reason for this is that a change in physicality results in a change in energy.
It’s such a cool thing to experience as an actor, especially when you want certain emotions to flow to the surface.
The first time I experienced this phenomenon was years ago during a dramatic improv workshop. I was sitting on the stage and just curled myself into a ball, my body still facing forward. I instantly noticed a change in emotion that made for a much more interesting - and delightfully creepy - character to emerge!
Another impressionable experience I had was during a staging workshop taught by an accomplished director, actor, writer, and teacher. He had directed me in a very moving scene from Agnus of God, where just one teeny-tiny physical adjustment resulted in a flow of energy and emotion so intense that it brought the scene to an entirely different level.
And the good news is, it doesn’t just work like this for the actor.
Just as our posture changes based on our emotions – for example, our shoulders tense up when we’re stressed or we might feel a burning in our gut when we feel anguish – our emotions are also affected by our posture. It works both ways. And it’s true for all of us.
Did you know that it's impossible to feel a negative emotion while you're smiling? Don't believe me? Give it a try. Yeah, you might go back to feeling down immediately upon letting down your smile, especially if that's your default emotion. But not while your mouth is turned upward. (The human body is incredible, isn't it?)
This is why as we practice mindfulness and awareness, we can change our default emotions to the ones we most desire.
Another example that comes to mind is from one of my mentors, Tony Robbins, who notes that standing in a superhero pose (think Wonder Woman with her shoulders back and her hands on her hips) decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 25%! It also increases testosterone by 20% and our risk tolerance by 33%. All this from a small shift in posture!
Okay. Now it's your turn.
The next time you’re about to head into a normally stressful situation - or realize you’re already in one - notice and try adjusting your posture. I’m pretty sure you’ll feel a shift.
Better yet, check and adjust your posture throughout the day for preventative maintenance – and a nice burst of energy!
Drop me an email and let me know how you make out. :)