Do the Wet Dog

Sarah Coolidge
Sarah Coolidge is an author, trainer and message mentor.

Mar 11,2018

Michael was terrified, and he kept on talking about it. After months with virtually no snow in our mountains, a spring storm had dumped about five feet of powder and he had gone out snowboarding in it. Unfortunately, he had taken a fall and found himself watching the sun disappear above his eyes as snow literally buried him alive. His arms were trapped at his sides and he knew his friends were down the hill ahead of him, unaware of his situation. After several hard minutes of struggling, he managed to free himself and save his own life.

And now he was talking about it, reliving every detail, pale and frightened. He could not stop himself from saying, over and over, “I almost died. Just like that. Oh my God.”

Time to do the Wet Dog.

When we are in a stressful situation, big or small, our Sympathetic Nervous System is triggered into the famous fight or flight mode. All of our action chemicals pour into our body, preparing it to defend itself and keep it alive at all costs. These affect our heart rates, digestion, blood pressure and ability to think creatively. They also saved Michael’s life today.

However, staying in that fear, especially by thinking about it and talking about it over and over again, will keep those chemicals active and build up a pattern in Michael’s brain and body that can affect his future in a way he does not want. He may find that he cannot relax enough to enjoy snowboarding ever again after this incident. While he was deeply frightened by his fall, he also has the potential to keep enjoying his sport (with some new caution!) if he does not hang on to his terror.

He needs to switch over to his Parasympathetic System, and give his body a break. The danger is over now, but the long-term threats to his peace of mind (and health!) will continue if he stays in this state. One way to make the switch, and move the negative energy out of his body, is to do the Wet Dog.

Have you ever watched a nature film and seen a cheetah take down a gazelle from a terrified herd? What do the other herd members do after the threat is over? They shake their bodies, from head to toe, and then resume life as normal. They calm right down again, and use a body shake to help them do it. When you observe the animals in your world you will notice them doing this all the time. They intuitively know how to switch themselves out of fight or flight and back to safe and relaxed.

You can find all sorts of different techniques for shaking your body but the most basic one is easy to learn and easy to do anywhere. Simply pretend you are a big, wet dog and do what that dog does the second he gets into your living room. He shakes himself all over, getting rid of that nastiness.

Just like the dog, start with your head and begin the shake, letting it move all the way down your back, through your arms and legs and out your hands and feet. Pretend you have the tail he does, and shake that too! Do the Wet Dog for a few seconds, or over and over, depending on the need you feel. Then, take three to five big, deep breaths, focusing on exhaling longer than you inhale. Simple. Why not try it right now?

Try this when you are startled by something big or small, or when you wish to leave an unpleasant encounter behind before you give it the chance to wreck your day, and your health. Doing the Wet Dog will help you move through the upset and turn to whatever is coming next with a calm outlook.  Although it may look surprising to anyone who watches you do it, it is well worth it!


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