Fight or Flight

In today’s world, living is complicated. We multitask to handle small emergencies throughout the day. We are pressured to do more work, put out more fires, and still take care of ourselves. Our bodies react to these mini emergencies just like the life or death emergencies of our ancestors. When we become pressured, upset, or fearful, the fight or flight mode can become active.

This fight or flight mode gives us maximum strength and allows us to find a solution immediately. It is a natural survival mechanism intended to save our lives in an emergency. In ancient times, if a tiger were stalking us, we would need to move quickly or the tiger would have us for dinner. Fight or flight provides us with energy and reduces our thoughts to just what is needed to escape. This is good for emergencies but, for everyday living, it limits our capacity to relax.

When we are stressed, worried, or in emergency mode, our breathing becomes fast and shallow. Our blood pressure and heart rate increase. Our stress hormones increase and our digestive system slows down. Blood is diverted from surface areas and increased in deep muscles for super human strength. It can happen in emergencies or in the stress of everyday life.

Being in this stressed fight or flight state, day after day, can cause many health problems. Obesity, headaches, poor digestion, frustration, anxiety, and trouble sleeping are common stress-related problems. Inflammation, high blood pressure, and heart problems could be a result of stress. Stress is part of our lives—what is important is how we manage it.

It is necessary to have this stressful fight or flight mode, but we must also have a relaxed state. This relaxed mode should be our regular way of living and only in a dire emergency should we go into the fight or flight mode. When we are relaxed our breathing becomes deep, slow, and smooth. We are able to see a more complete picture. Our mind and body senses no danger. The relaxed state allows our heart rate to slow down, blood pressure to reduce, and healthy digestion to occur. Blood flow is working at an optimal rate feeding our entire body. Our body is producing feel good hormones and chemicals, and we are relaxing and restoring our system.

If we can spend a few minutes a day with breathing and relaxation exercises, we can learn to let stress go and be more relaxed. These few minutes can carry over into the entire day.