We all have a remarkable ability to trigger a fight or flight response when under threat. When danger is present your body undergoes a range of physical adaptations which enhances your ability to run faster or fight harder.
The brain sends signals to your adrenal glands that release potent hormones which increase your ability to deal with the threat.
If you find yourself stumbling across a lion while walking in the woods, fight or flight is very beneficial.
The flight or fight response
The flight or fight response is something our ancestors developed to survive in a dangerous environment. This response causes tension in the body, as well as, a range of other changes. It is designed to get triggered at even the slightest hint of danger.
Once activated your senses heighten and your body starts to prepare itself, in case you are under attack.
Your airways widen and your breathing rate increases to let you take in more oxygen. You begin to sweat to help prevent you from overheating. Your attention is taking away from the non-essential process. Your digestion slows to provide more oxygen to the muscles. Your heart rate and blood rates increase to get more oxygen around the body. Your perception of pain is decreased in case you get injured.
Your body is fully optimized ready for fight or flight.
Modern reaction to stress
Most of us live and work in an environment which often leads to the flight or fight response being triggered by stressful situations that don’t require a physical reaction.
Unfortunately, our fight or flight response can be triggered by a range of different stimuli. Things like work deadlines, family relationships, and student pressures do not require us to react to stress the same way our ancestors responded to their dangerous environment.
Today, people are probably not facing down a lion with only a spear as a weapon. Most of the time, no one is trying to cause you bodily harm, but you still react to modern stressors, as if you are about to do battle. You will have a physical reaction to that perceived threat, just the same.
When this happens, we are continually producing stress hormones and chemicals, which are being stored up with nowhere to go, leading to adrenal overload, causing our system to be out of balance.
You can only take but so much stress.
It is only a matter of time before you start to display signs and symptoms of chronic stress and develop health problems.
The good news is that your body is continuously looking for ways to achieve balance.
With proper a stress assessment and coping mechanisms, you can rewire your brain to move away from fight or flight mode, and into a state of balance.
Thankfully, we now have a far greater understanding of stress, its causes, and its effects, and how to manage it.