Tension and Trauma Release Exercise (TRE®) is an innovative, body-based technique used to reduce the impact of deeply held stress, tension and trauma (including PTSD).

Traditionally, treatment for the symptoms of chronic stress, tension and trauma involved talking therapies and medication. However, evidence continues to grow to support the use of TRE® as a highly effective, complementary approach.

The TRE® technique, created in the 1990s by Dr David Berceli, is based on the fundamental idea, backed by recent research, that stress, tension and trauma are both psychological and physical.

With a background in both psychotherapy and therapeutic body-work, Berceli was able to develop a sequence of seven simple exercises, that activate the body’s natural urge to shake or vibrate to release stress. When this shaking/vibrating mechanism is triggered – in a safe, controlled environment – it has multiple positive effects on the body, including:

  • Calming and balancing the nervous system
  • Helping the body to release muscular tension
  • Releasing trauma
  • Bringing the body back into a state of balance.

Over time (usually less than three months) the physiology of the entire body can be returned to balance, and the immune system returned to normal functioning, with benefits including:

  • Improved sleep
  • Better focus and concentration
  • Feeling more relaxed and calm
  • Relief from long-standing physical pain
  • Greater emotional resilience.

After initial training, TRE® is designed to be a self-help tool that can be used independently, as and when needed in daily life, to support and promote personal health and wellness.

The exercises can also be adapted to meet the specific needs of each individual, depending on flexibility and physical health – making them accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

How Does TRE® Work?

Stress, tension and trauma are first experienced by our nervous system – and then expressed through our bodies and minds.

They are our body’s automatic response to any action or situation that places extra physical or psychological demands on us, that could disturb our balance, such as:

  • new or unexpected events
  • things we feel we have no control over
  • situations that threaten our feeling of self.

When we experience anything that appears to threaten our wellbeing, this automatic survival mechanism kicks in. It instantly creates physical changes in our body, including the production of stress hormones, triggering the ‘fight or flight’ response. This stress response is the body’s natural reaction to keep us on high alert, motivated and safe, until the ‘danger’ has passed. It’s a healthy reaction that can, at times, be essential for our survival – helping us to push through challenging, intense or scary situations.

Our bodies typically return to a relaxed, resting state after the stress response has done its job, without any lasting negative effects. However, there are times when our stress response is repeatedly activated – or persists over extended periods – and we can get stuck in a permanent state of ‘fight or flight’. When this charge is not released, it is stored in the body in the muscles and fascia – as a body memory. It can become toxic, causing a wide range of physical and mental health issues.

TRE® is an amazing and highly effective tool that can help the body to naturally release this charge – to reset the nervous system and return the body to a state of balance. As a result, it reduces many issues linked to a stressed nervous system, including anxiety, sleep problems, depression, ADHD, and poor emotional regulation.

The technique involves three main steps:

  1. First, a series of simple exercises are performed as a physical warm-up. These mildly stress and stretch the body’s core muscles and prepare the body to activate its natural shaking/vibrating mechanism. While this is typically a natural process, it is one that we often resist,which is why our bodies have been unable to discharge any built-up stress naturally.
  2. Once activated, the gentle shaking/vibrating begins deep in the core of the body, moving to the legs, and reverberating up along the spine, releasing tension from the base of the spine to the top of the head. These are called neurogenic muscle tremors and are the body’s natural way of shaking off the effects brought about by stress and trauma. The shaking can trigger physical or emotional release, which (unlike situations of overwhelm) can be self-regulated. Through TRE®training, we have control over the intensity and can moderate when, where and how much we release at any given time.
  3. Finally, it is important to rest, to allow the mind and body to settle and integrate any emotions that have arisen. This allows the brain to establish a new neural pattern related to relaxation. Endorphins (natural pain relief hormones) are released and restore the natural state of balance.

With practice, the muscle shaking/vibrating can be activated spontaneously without the need to perform the exercises.

What Are the Benefits of TRE®?

In addition to helping the body release deeply held trauma, TRE® can also be used to relieve stress, lower anxiety, build resilience and reduce feelings of overwhelm. It restores and supports physical, mental and emotional health.

The wide range of reported benefits include:

  • less worry and anxiety
  • reduced symptoms of PTSD
  • more energy and stamina/endurance
  • less relationship conflict/improved relationships
  • improved sleep and natural states of rest
  • reduced muscle aches and pains, including relief from migraines, headache, back pain
  • better circulation
  • increased flexibility
  • more balanced mood, including reduced feelings of anger, fear, doubt, rage and anxiety increased feelings of love, generosity, openness and caring
  • greater emotional resilience
  • improved autoimmune conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • relief from many inflammatory illnesses, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • release of deeply buried emotional/physical trauma
  • a healthier body and mind awareness
  • improved sense of feeling focused, confident and grounded.

As well as helping the body to naturally balance the nervous system, TRE® also has the potential to help with digestive issues, blood pressure irregularities, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and much more.

Additionally, TRE® has been shown to achieve positive results in a short period of time. In just 10-15 minutes, a few times a week, it is possible to completely release dysfunctional patterns, behaviours and ways of being that have become deeply entrenched over time.

Who Can Benefit From TRE®?

The shaking/vibrating mechanism activated by this technique is part of our natural behaviour as humans, and therefore everyone can access and benefit from it. It’s the body’s most natural, organic way of releasing pent-up ‘fight or flight’ energy and bringing the body back to homeostasis.

TRE® has been used effectively in over 40 countries around the world, benefitting many thousands of people suffering from anything from day-to-day anxieties, addictions and chronic medical conditions, to severe symptoms of PTSD.

Is TRE® Safe?

TRE® is considered to be as safe and effective as any other exercise-based, stress-release practice (such as yoga and tai chi), for most people. However, it is not currently advisable to use it as a substitute for trauma recovery procedures of a medical or psychological nature.

Unless the practitioner has the appropriate psychiatric training, TRE® should not be used with those who have any of the following diagnoses:

  • Bipolar conditions
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Manic/depressive
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Severe depression.

Those who are pregnant or have complex health needs are advised to check with a medical professional before attempting to practice the exercises.

Used in combination with talking therapies and/or medication, TRE® is shown to be safe, and to have a significant impact on healing the body and mind, restoring overall wellbeing.

What Are the Benefits of Using TRE® With Teenagers and Young Adults?

Most teenagers and young adults have a lot to cope with as they navigate modern life. They may not have to worry about financial problems, workplace stressors or caring for relatives, but they do have their own common causes of stress, tension and trauma, such as:

  • the challenges of social media
  • study and exam pressures
  • hormonal and brain changes
  • family problems
  • romantic relationships
  • bullying
  • peer pressure.

Additionally, many young people spend excessive amounts of time on their phones or other devices, which means their bodies are less active, and therefore less able to discharge the increasing levels of daily stress through natural mechanisms.

The human body can only cope with so much pressure before physical, mental and emotional signs and symptoms begin to develop.

TRE® is an amazing additional tool to use with teenagers and young adults, as it:

  • is a process that doesn’t require talking about events, feelings or issues, which young people can find hard to do. As a no-talking technique, TRE® frees them from the expectation of having to recall/relive uncomfortable situations or to access memories of traumatic events they have tried to numb/avoid.
  • can be used effectively as a complementary practice, to support and enhance other treatment approaches.
  • encourages unity and openness between group members, and can be a helpful tool for interpersonal, group and family communication.
  • stimulates the nervous system, optimising the control of muscles, which can help young people feel reconnected with their body.
  • is flexible and can be learned/practised in a group, family or one-on-one setting.
  • becomes an empowering life skill that young people can use independently in their daily lives, to support and promote their own physical, mental and emotional health.

Studies have shown that after just a few sessions, most young people feel confident in using the practice and can incorporate it into a weekly, self-care routine. In this way, they can regularly identify and release tensions before they become much larger problems.

They are also able to see/feel positive changes in a relatively short space of time – such as feeling less anxious, getting better sleep and having a more balanced mood – which can act as a great incentive for them to keep it up.