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Fight or Flight?


A near miss collision. A barking dog during your run. An angry confrontation.


We've all been there. That unmistakable feeling of danger. These scenarios can trigger your sympathetic nervous system to respond automatically. This "Fight or Flight" response was designed to save your life and involves your entire body assessing your environment and making decisions on how to survive without you having to think about it.


What is your sympathetic nervous system?

The sympathetic nervous system is a part of the involuntary nervous system (automatic nervous system) "which automatically regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, body temperature, sweating, and digestion", according to the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.


Minor and major stressful situations can elicit the same stress responses like increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced or absent pain, changes in body temperature, trembling, and sweating are just some changes that happen in the body during a flight or fight response. As well, hormones are released and the sympathetic nervous system redirects any of the body's functions, prioritizing anything essential or crucial to survival. This means functions like digestion and healing are halted during this state and can take about 20 minutes or much longer to return to your natural state.

What is the parasympathetic nervous system?

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for maintaining balance in the body. Often called the "rest and digest system," the parasympathetic nervous system works to keep your body in a relaxed and calm state, slowing blood flow, heart rate, and conserving energy for non-stressful actions like digestion, sexual arousal, and sleep.


The problem

Fight or flight response can't differentiate between real and perceived dangers, as well as non-threatening situations. The response can be triggered by the mere thought of things that scare or even worry us. For traumatic situations, your fight or flight response can be trigger prolonged stress, keeping your body on high alert, causing an imbalance in your nervous system, and taxing your physical and mental health.


Sometimes, there is no clear delineation or exact reason for your stress response, but if it is activated frequently and you are unable to return to a calm state each time, you may be in a state of chronic stress. This can cause your nervous system responses to activate at the wrong time. Hyper alert when you should be resting, and resting when you should be alert.

The fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system has a true life-saving function, but if it's interfering with your quality of life by activating every day, Somatic Therapy can help you identify and manage your physical, emotional, and behavioural stressors, use techniques to manage triggers.


Somatic Therapy isn't a quick fix, but with intention, connection, and movement, it can guide you towards a more balanced and relaxed state. Call me at 604-868-5572 to schedule an appointment.


With gratitude,

Kerri

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