“Flight or Fight” When a person experiences mental, emotional or physical stress, the body reacts. It floods the system with biochemicals and hormones to enable the body to handle the stressful situation. This is called the “flight or fight” response. Every organ of the body responds, the muscles tense up so that you can jump, run or struggle with maximum strength; the blood pressure rises to quickly transport fuel to the muscles, breathing quickens to provide more oxygen; heart races to rush the oxygen to the muscles, The liver pours forth sugar and the fat cells release fat.
One can see how repeated feelings of stress can lead to pain and tight muscles, high blood pressure, anxiety, a rapid heart rate, and weight gain. Additionally, when a person is stressed, systems that don’t immediately serve this “flight or flight” response, such as the digestive system, shut down.
Although heavy traffic, work deadlines and credit card statements are not like running from a saber-tooth tiger, our body still responds to them as if they were. Your heart still races and hormones still flood your bloodstream with sugar and fat. For many people, this stress response happens multiple times throughout the day. This is chronic stress, and over time this repetition of the “fight or flight” response, begins to alter our everyday physiology and health. Shifting your consciousness to understand that stress can lead to disease may help you learn to manage it better.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve their symptoms.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE THE EFFECTS OF STRESS
- Deep and Measured Breathing
Combat stress by taking a few deep breaths. The system that works antagonist to the “flight and fight” system is the “rest and digest”. What stimulates the “rest and digest” system? Deep relaxed breathing. Reminding people to BREATHE is our gold nugget for stress management. We tend to hold our breath when under pressure, which leads to poor oxygen delivery and increased muscle tension.
Follow this simple breathing exercise the next time you feel stressed. Remember, as you inhale, your lower abdomen should expand and not contract.
1. 6 breathes in one minute, every minute.
2. 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out.
3. Immediately lowers Blood Pressure.
4. Immediately kicks in the “rest and digest”.
- Proper Diet
You can also lower stress by ingesting essential fatty acids (such as omega-3 fatty acids), which ensure that our cell membranes are optimally functioning, especially in the brain, which is largely made of fat.
1. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish such as salmon, black cod and sardines. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.
2. If you’re not eating 2 pieces of salmon a week, take a Fish Oil supplement
3. Non-fish options: ground flax seeds and walnuts are excellent. Chia seeds are an alternative to flaxseeds and are very nutritious.