Our Fight Or Flight Response
Did you know that your body has a primal fight or flight response? Back when humans were living out in nature and running away from dangerous big animals with sharp teeth, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) would kick into gear to help us either fight the animal or run away from it.
For our body, this means:
- Heart rate speeds up
- Muscles tense up
- We become more alert
- Functions that aren't necessary for survival begin to slow down (such as digestion)
- Adrenaline is released
- Rest and digest mode
Once the dangerous situation is no longer present, our body is then designed to regulate itself back to its normal resting state.
This is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which is all calmness and stability. If our body isn't in fight or flight and the perceived threat is gone, it's in this harmonious state (this is when we get that true sense of feeling balanced!).
In this mode:
- Digestive functions increase
- Heart rate slows down
- Energy levels build up again
- Healing and immunity responses improve
These are all obviously great things, but the problem in modern society many of us are sitting in the perceived threat state and no longer entering this zone; there is no come down for our body to restore itself.
The modern day problem
We're constantly busy and rushed and our nervous system reacts to this by treating it as a perceived threat in the same way as it would a dangerous animal. Our nervous system can't tell the difference between being chased by a tiger and the pressure of a work deadline. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment our head hits the pillow at night we are in overdrive dealing with kids, emails, bills, social media, work, social obligations, school assignments... you get the idea.
If our body stays in this state for too long without coming back down, it can begin to affect our health, manifesting in undesired symptoms when it comes to our hormone production, our mental state, inflammation, our immunity and our physical state.
How to calm your nervous system
There are many stressful situations in life that we can't change, but what we can change is the way we react to them or how we calm down when removed from the situation.
Some simple things you can do each day to help include:
- Restorative yoga (the kind where you hold a relaxed pose for a period of time rather than the kind where you flow between poses quickly and get up a sweat)
- Breathing exercises (take 5 deep, even, slow breaths)
- Find ways to manage and handle stressful situations
- Skip the high intensity training (which can add to your body's perceived stress) for an outdoor walk instead
- Get adequate sleep
- Have time away from technology
- Do things that give you a sense of happiness
If you have children, think about how you can teach them these life skills as well. There can be a lot of pressure on kids these days from a young age when it comes to school and society, and giving them these ways to cope with stressful situations is an incredible gift that will help them deal with the world around them as it gets bigger.
Image / DepositPhotos