In many stress management books and articles we are painted as hapless victims of a pathetically primitive survival system – the Fight or Flight response (aka the stress response). The argument goes that the Fight or Flight response whilst suitable for helping our ancestors deal with sabre-tooth tigers and the suchlike, is wholly inappropriate for us modern day humans when, for example, we're stuck in a traffic jam or facing an unrealistic deadline at work.
According to the Fight or Flight critics, this woefully outdated response goes off like a car alarm every time we are in trouble and makes everybody sick, and the best thing would be if we could stop it with a ‘magic bullet’ or have it surgically removed. Some stress ideologists even claim that Mother Nature is trying to kill us!
The question is, should we really perceive ourselves as victims of a natural response that has played such a key role in our survival across millennia?
The Fight or Flight response is remarkable. It evolved to help us deal with physical threats against which we could take physical action (e.g. the oft quoted sabre tooth tiger). However, the majority of the threats we face today do not represent physical threats to our survival, rather they are perceived threats to our Physical and Emotional Needs. These perceived threats may be real or imagined.
The amygdala, a very primitive, early developed part of brain (which gives the signal to activate the Fight or Flight Response) isn’t able to distinguish between actual life threatening physical events and imagined threats. Indeed, when the Fight or Flight response first evolved we didn’t have a ‘thinking brain’ and there was no such thing as imagination. Today, when we imagine ourselves in a scenario where one or more of our Physical and Emotional Needs is under threat, we are likely to trigger the Fight or Flight response.
The consequence of triggering the Fight or Flight response is a mixture of physiological, mental and emotional symptoms we label stress. Stress, while often disquieting and unpleasant, is intended to galvanize us to take urgent action, or make urgent plans, to solve the riddle of the situation in order to save ourselves from the threat.
The Fight or Flight response functions like a fire or burglar alarm, and the stress it produces is not meant to be ignored, or endured. It’s a call to action. So rather than subscribing to the idea that the Fight or Flight response has outlived its usefulness and should be switched off, we need recognise it for the valuable role it continues to play in our day to day survival and well-being.
To reduce the stress we experience from inappropriate activation of the Fight or Flight response we need to:
learn how to stop misusing our imagination
get better at appraising threats
enhance our coping capabilities
learn to deal with stress before it begins to have an adverse impact on the way we live our lives.
If you’d like to explore how well you are currently dealing with stress and how you can manage your stress better, contact me on 021 056 8389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful week.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.