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Harmful Effects of Fight or Flight

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night? Are you gaining weight despite not overeating or changing your diet? Do you frequently feel unsettled, on edge, or anxious throughout the day? 

All of these are side effects of your body frequently being in the sympathetic nervous system, also known as fight or flight. When we are put in a stressful situation, the body switches to the sympathetic nervous system. This causes increased heart rate, impedes breathing and eyesight as well as inhibits digestion. None of which is good for the body. 

Also, being in constant fight or flight weakens your immune system making you vulnerable to colds and flu. 

What you want to be in, is the parasympathetic nervous system, where your heart rate is normal, you can see and breathe clearly and your food is digesting and providing you with the nutrients you need to go about your day feeling energized. 

If you are like most Americans, you may find yourself living a lot of your life in fight or flight and don’t know a way out. The good news is that it only takes 90 seconds to pull yourself out of fight or flight and into a calm state of mind.

The easiest way to do this is deep breathing. When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, try this simple technique.

Breathing Technique:

If you can, close your eyes. Take a breath in through the nose for a count of 3 and slowly breathe out for a count of 5. Repeat this for at least 90 seconds. Or, for as long as you need to feel your body relax.

Note: When calming the nervous system, you should always exhale for longer than you inhale. 

You’ll notice your face softening, your heart rate slowing and your shoulders dropping away from your ears. The fog will begin to clear from your mind and you will experience a sense of clarity and peace. 

This practice can be done anytime or anywhere. The more you do it, the quicker you will feel that sense of calm as your body will become used to the practice and know what to do. 

If you know fight or flight is a constant problem for you, you might want to take up yoga.

Unlike other cardio-based exercises like running, weight lifting, zumba and the like, yoga keeps your body in the parasympathetic nervous system. So you are maintaining a sense of calm, focus and peace while strengthening and stretching the body. You are also burning more calories because your digestive system is functioning normally. Also, over time, your body learns how to better handle fight or flight and is more resistent to it because you have trained it stay calm and focused when stressors come calling. 

Like this blog? Leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you. Try one of our other blogs: Creating your space, Winter Health Tip: Warming Foods, Sound Healing