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If you were surfing in the ocean and saw a large shark swim through the wave, it would be perfectly normal to have a very strong physical response. Tightening of the muscles throughout your body, increase in heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate would all increase. Major changes to your hormone levels (release of adrenaline) and a rise in cortisone (which suppresses the immune system) occur in response to this stressful environment. Your whole body reacts to prepare you for the new challenge. This is what is known as the flight-or-flight response; either we stay and fight or run/swim away…..
In a normal situation, the changes that occur are ideal – they cover the body’s needs during peak exercise and prepare it to deal with any injury you may sustain. This is a very useful self-preservation response, and it occurs instinctively and automatically. No matter whether you stay and fight or run away, there is a definite end point, and once you reach the end point, the stress response stops and you start to relax again (Relaxation Response).
What does this mean for me?
In today’s environment the clear cut Fight-or-Flight response doesn’t occur so often. There might be the occasional close call when driving that has a clear start and finish, however most of the stress today is emotional and/or psychological. We deal with people who irritate us, we have fears about the future, we feel locked inside unsolvable problems.
Every time we go to work for an overbearing boss, or even think about them, the Fight-or-flight Response is aggravated. Our level of arousal is raised and major changes take place in the balance of our body chemistry. We might feel the tension rising, the urge to hit him or to walk out, but we need the job, the pay, the security, so we swallow hard, contain the feeling and sustain the stress. However, if the stress is not released, stress builds upon stress upon stress and we find it increasingly difficult to move away from our “tipping point”.
Without the initiation of the Relaxation Response, the body stays at a heightened level of arousal (as shown in the graph above). This is a cumulative effect unless action is taken. Being at this heighten state can show in the body as:
- Active mind when trying to go to sleep
- Restless sleep
- Waking un-rested
- Vivid / active / stressful dreams
- Constant tight shoulders
- Tension headaches
- Jaw Tension
- Digestive upset
- Constantly feeling unsettled
- Impatience and intolerance of others
- Low libido
The body needs to unwind – Relaxation Response. We will always encounter stressful situations but the problem arises when we don’t bring our bodies back to resting levels. This is where we can help. Our therapies and stress reduction programs work to regain the Relaxation Response so you are not constantly at your “tipping point”.
Click here to find out how we can help minimize the impact stress is having on your life and on your health.