By: Michael Beiter
The autonomous nervous system is activated by anxiety and fear to address the risks that caused them. This reaction, known as the fight or flight response, is indicated by a series of normal but unpleasant physical symptoms. Examples include; panic, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, chest tightness, sweating, feeling like you're choking, headaches, irritability, insomnia, spasms, trembling, dry mouth, throat tightness, speech problems, fear of death and feeling a loss of a control.
The fight or flight response is based on adrenaline. The hormone of fear. Adrenaline acts to ensure that more oxygenated blood will be available in the body which can be used by the muscles of the feet and hands to support whatever decision the person makes, whether to fight or take flight.
That blood is also made abundantly available to the brain in order to make decisions fast. Blood is moved away from lower priority functions of the stomach, immune system, and sex organs.
Our reactions to the tensions of daily life are typically overblown and adrenaline production can start for a trivial reason, in response to a small stressor. We feel sick, start sweating, and our heart rates shoot up; our body is reacting with fight or flight responses.
Then we worry about how we feel which further inflates the stress. So a feedback loop starts causing a secondary fear known as 'fear of fear.' Such secondary feelings of anxiety cause panic, the symptoms of which could be the same or maybe even worse than the original ones that started it all.
If things in our body are working correctly, our stress response should start and stop automatically.
The opposite system called rest and digest responds to fear and anxiety by triggering the body's defense mechanism and relaxing us to a calm state.
Our rest and digest systems can malfunction if we are anxious for long periods of time and constantly stressed. When we find our selves in an alarmed state regularly exhaustion and depression can develop. These are our body's natural response in an attempt to get us to slow down. Rarely do we listen.
Hunting for food, shelter, and clothing were big stressors our ancestors had to worry about daily. With our basic needs easily met by our modern standards of living we shift our attention to the net most stressful things: work places, traffic, bad news, social media, over booked schedules, and poor health habits cause our stress the same way survival needs caused theirs.
The result is a bunch of people spend more than half of their conscious hour in fight or flight mode. To simply get on an even keel we would need to at least balance that equation. Sixteen hours awake gives us an equal eight hours in both fight and fight and rest and digest while we are awake. Few people give themselves this opportunity.
The only way to break out of our vicious cycle of stress is by adopting an effective stress management method as well as introducing a more natural, balanced mode of living.