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Stress – Fight Or Flight?

The external demands of life can bring about stressors that your current coping skills may not be sufficient to handle. Connect these external needs to your internal world and you create a recipe for trouble. Your internal attitudes, thoughts and beliefs can actually prevent you from coping and thus create anxiety that can affect your health. This is easily detected in a person’s body language.

The autonomic nervous system is the part of the brain and body responsible for functions for which we are not necessarily conscious. Operating below our level of awareness, its role includes taking care of functions; respiration, pupil dilation, digestion and elimination, and your “fight or flight” response to perceived danger.

Fight or flight is the primal drive, commonly associated with primitive humans, that prepares them to “make a stand” or “get out there.” It occurs in the animal world between predator and prey. Take for example a lion and a zebra. When the lion begins to attack him, the zebra may even abort his unborn as a result of the flight response. It tries to save its own life by pushing the zebra away. This type of stress can cause immediate loss of the urge to eat, drink, defecate, urinate or have sex. These functions can be critical in life or death situations.

In more modern days, the human fight or flight response seems to be used in a more destructive manner. Perceived danger comes in the form of “what ifs.” “What if I lose my job?” “What if I get sick and can’t work?” “What if I get divorced and something happens to my family?” And there are many more things on the list.

Below is a partial list of responses set up by the autonomic nervous system.

• Digestion slows down and your appetite decreases so blood can flow to the brain and muscles.

• Breathing is quickened so that oxygen is supplied to the muscles.

• Heart rate increases and blood pressure rises as it is forced throughout the body.

• Sweating increases to keep the body cool, and allows the body to burn more energy.

• Muscle tension prepares them for intense action.

• Chemicals are released to help blood clot. This clotting will reduce blood loss in case of injury.

• Carbohydrates and fats are released into the blood so that energy can be burned quickly.

In humans, stress can develop when we become anxious and worried about what might happen or what has happened and what the experience might lead to. In this modern age we have limited ways to deal with stress. Lack of coping skills makes us more vulnerable because we are less able to adapt to normal stressors.

As our internal response to stress increases, it affects our health, our relationships with others, as well as our energy reserves. Simply put, we seem to lose the will and motivation to do something. We can become mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Stress can come from a variety of sources, including family, illness, fears and phobias, feelings of inadequacy, mental or physical problems or handicaps, as well as the environment.

No matter the source or severity, stress still triggers these primal drives of “fight or flight.” In our ancient past we were able to determine a threat and quickly respond in some manner. This ability is also known as survival of the fittest. To deal with primal drives we must learn how to change the meaning of what is stressing us. This requires us to change our old habits and thinking and perhaps make some adjustments in our belief system. Believe it or not, a stressful lifestyle can become comfortable for some, even though it is very harmful. It can be very stressful and difficult to make healthy lifestyle changes and look at what is happening in our lives.

Some helpful ways to ease these changes are to learn meditation, self-hypnosis, or yoga. I believe the fastest, easiest and most effective way is hypnosis. It is true that a holistic approach takes some time as you train yourself to think differently. Changing the way you think can solve problems without masking how stress is affecting your health.

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