We live in a society of stress and worry. Life has become faster-paced, and relationships have been fewer are further-between. Everywhere we look, chronic stress defines our lives.
- We worry about supporting our families without being backed by a strong community.
- In the competition for jobs, we worry about whom we can trust.
- We fear loneliness and worry about finding the right mate.
- We worry about our children's future and whether we are doing a good enough job as parents.
- In our efforts to do it all, we deprive our bodies of much-needed sleep.
- We overindulge in caffeine in order to compensate for the lack of sleep.
- We are so busy that we lack the time to prepare healthy meals, and our nutrition suffers.
All of this stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, which is a primitive mechanism that prepares the body and mind for a situation in which survival is being threatened. This response causes the production of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which lead to a variety of symptoms.
Immediately, when you are experiencing the fight-or-flight response, you will noticed elevated heart rate and breathing, as well as limited vision, hearing, and understanding. When you are in fight-or-flight, you are not able to think creatively or look at a situation objectively. Your mind is scanning, looking for the threat that it has detected. Because this is the mind's focus, you will not full comprehend all that is said to you, or all that is going on around you.
Most of us spend our lives in some level of chronic fight-or-flight. This can lead to a number of long-term symptoms:
- Increased anxiety, as the mind is constantly looking for and detecting perceived threats.
- Depression, as the mind fatigues from being in a constant state of high-alert.
- Weight gain, especially around the middle.
- Increased addiction behaviors, as the mind seeks to feel better, as a substitute for being safe.
- Difficulty in relationships, as the mind seeks to feel safe externally, since we can not create our own feeling of safety.
- Increased risk of heart disease.
- Cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty remembering things.
Clearly, managing the fight-or-flight response should be a focus in your life, if you are dealing with constant stress. The first step in dealing with this response is to find a relaxation technique that works for you, so that you can calm the physiological response. Yoga, meditation, and prayer are all great methods of relaxation and calming your body.
After minimizing the physical response, preventing the fight-or-flight reaction from occurring again involves redefining those thoughts that are leading your mind to perceive that there is a threat. The external events that lead to chronic stress are rarely "real" threats to survival. It is the mind's interpretation of these events that causes the perception of a threat. Ending the cycle of fight-or-flight requires taking a long, deep look at those thoughts and interpretations.