When we are presented with a stressor, our body responds within seconds. In fact, it pumps out hormones that increase blood flow to our brain and muscles, sharpens our focus, increases our pain threshold, and diverts energy away from tasks such as digestion, so all resources go to managing the threat. (2) This is called the fight or flight response.
Whether you need to run from a situation or stay and fight, your body is prepared for the challenge.
The extraordinary ability to quickly ramp up the body and mind to handle challenging situations is an evolutionary advantage. However, the body and mind did not evolve to differentiate well between acute and chronic stressors. As a result, the fight or flight response kicks in regardless of whether you’re facing a bear or a work deadline.
We must be able to respond in a time of stress or crisis, but it is equally essential to relax once the stressor has passed. Unfortunately, in modern life, the stressors tend to pile up. Our complex, fast-paced life may be routinely sending our body the signal that it is under threat.
Hence, many of us move from one crisis to the next, never experiencing the relaxation necessary to maintain mental and physical health. It’s as though we spend all day, every day facing off with a bear, while in reality, there is no need to either fight or flee.