This is triggered via what we call the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).
|"Fight or Flight" helps us to deal with threats. (picture by Ilanit Levy, 2013)|
This reaction we have is very instinctive. It evolved very early on in human evolution as a way to protect us from predators or give us energy to fight them. Hence 'fight or flight'.
It is our basic survival instinct and it kicks in when we are in a difficult situation. It makes our body ready to fight or to run by revving it up with hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol), increased heartbeat, tense muscles, focused vision and other things. We suddenly have loads of energy that has to be used.
The problem is.. these days we do not have enormous dinosaurs or sabre tooth tigers to fight or to run from. We have impossible situations; like traffic jams, a broken car or a difficult boss.
The body still prepares for fight or flight but we are not able to use up that energy! So what happens?
The tension still builds up and we have no in-built ways to release it. So what do we do? We either ignore it and become unwell or we may use negative coping strategies like smoking or drinking too much; hitting out or going awol.
Yet there are many positive ways to get rid of the stress chemicals from our system. Physical exercise is one of the best ways. Doing a creative activitiy is another good way, such as playing with our children, laughing with our partner or playing music.
Another way is to trigger what is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), our "Relaxation Response". This takes more time than the Fight or Flight Response, but can be done.
To trigger your Relaxation Response, learn one of our rapid relaxation techniques - see the other tabs on this page. The videos also describe a few options.