November 2020

What do possums and Taylor Swift have in common?

If you know anything about possums they are the only marsupial in North America and they have a ton of teeth-up to 50! They also have an involuntary defense mechanism where they play dead in front of predators. (You may have heard the phrase "play possum".)

Not only is this mechanism involuntary, it's strangely effective. More akin to a medical state of shock, their heart rate lowers, their respiration slows, their lips curl back, they foam at the mouth, and they secrete a foul, dead or sick, stench from their anal glands that disuade predators from eating them.

While this is cool, this is also NOT why I think we should emulate posssums.

I think we should emulate possums because of what they do next. It's the same thing they have in common with Taylor Swift.

They "shake it off".

So, let's review. The possum gets scared half to death, literally, as it almost gets eaten by a coyote. The coyote is completely grossed out by such a foul smelling animal and leaves it behind in search of a more appetizing meal.

I don't know about you but when I have a stressful event of this magnitude, I take a moment (or days or months) to gather myself, try to overthink my way out of it, and resume regular life as soon as I'm able.

Possums don't do that.

As soon as the threat of the coyote is gone, the possum begins to shake aggressively. Its little paws claw the air, their jaws start moving, their snouts pretend to retaliate in a "better late than never" attempt to defend themselves.

What they're doing, according to twins, Dr. Emily Nagoski and Dr. Amelia Nagoski, is completing the stress cycle as outlined in their book "Burnout: The secret to solving the stress cycle".

Interestingly, the possum is able to return to the wild in a coherent state without displaying the type of PTSD that would be found in human counterparts faced with a stressor of the same magnitude.