When you’re exposed to something that’s potentially harmful, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by the brain to make bio-chemical changes in your body that prepare you for fight or flight. This is your acute stress reaction.
Your heart beat, blood pressure and rate of breathing increase. Your muscles become more tense, ready for action. Blood is directed away from your extremities and digestive system to your larger muscles and brain. Your vision and hearing sharpen. Perspiration increases to cool your body. Sugars surge into your blood stream to provide instant energy.
At the same time, the hormones released by your adrenal glands inhibit digestion, tissue repair, immunity, reproduction and sleep regulation.
Once the threat has passed, your brain stops sending danger signals to your sympathetic nervous system, and your heart rate, blood pressure and rate of breathing all return to their normal levels. Your parasympathetic nervous system then takes over to replenish, nurture and maintain your body until the next crisis.
Fight or flight serves you well in an emergency when you need to whisk your hand away from under scalding hot water or swerve to avoid a car hurtling towards you on the wrong side of the road. But more often than not in everyday life, this heightened state of readiness can’t be dissipated by fighting or running away.
So, in the interests of preserving your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, you have to find other, more effective ways of defusing your fight or flight state, which is what this journal is dedicated to sharing.
Hans Selye “The Stress of Life” (McGraw Hill)
Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman and Matthew McKay “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” (New harbinger Publications Inc)
Edward A Charlesworth and Ronald G Nathan “Stress Management” (Souvenir Press)