In the article endorphins-and-happiness we talked about the incredible internal pharmacy in our brains and how to turn on our happy hormones. In this post I want to talk about the opposite of our happy hormones, let’s look at our stress response.
Stress is a big, big topic and we can’t cover everything in one article so I want to cover first is how to get instant relief from feelings of stress and anxiety.
Let’s go back to our fabulous brain first!
Some of the physical signs that may indicate that the fight-or-flight response has kicked in include:
- Rapid Heart Beat and Breathing: The body increases heartbeat and respiration rate in order to provide the energy and oxygen to the body that will be needed to fuel a rapid response to the danger.
- Pale or Flushed Skin: As the stress response starts to take hold, blood flow to the surface areas of the body is reduced and flow to the muscles, brain, legs, and arms are increased. You might become pale as a result, or your face may alternate between pale and flushed as blood rushes to your head and brain.3 The body’s blood clotting ability also increases in order to prevent excess blood loss in the event of injury.
- Dilated Pupils: The body also prepares itself to be more aware and observant of the surroundings during times of danger. Another common symptom of the fight-or-flight response is the dilation of the pupils, which allows more light into the eyes and results in a better vision of the surroundings.
- Trembling: In the face of stress or danger, your muscles become tense and primed for action. This tension can result in trembling or shaking.
It takes around 20-60 mins to return to normal after our Fight or Flight has kicked in!
There are some hidden signs that you may be experiencing stress that do not trigger the physical Fight or Flight response:
- Depression or anxiety.
- Anger, irritability, or restlessness.
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused.
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
- Racing thoughts or constant worry.
- Problems with your memory or concentration.
- Making bad decisions.
So whether you are experiencing the physical effects of Fight or Flight or the more emotional signs there is one simple thing that you can do that makes a massive difference. Breathe.
We naturally breath in our chest and at rest we breathe around 12-20 breaths per minute
If we constantly use chest breathing, it can make the body tense, as if it is under stress. This is because the activated upper chest muscles increase feelings of anxiety.
Diaphragmatic breathing, on the other hand, can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, relax muscles, decrease stress, and increase energy levels. Deep breathing grounds us as well.
Belly breathing can help intense sensations, experiences, and emotions feel less threatening.
How to Belly Breathe
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.
Breathe in for 4, directing the breathe down so that your belly hand rises.
Hold the breathe for 1-2 seconds.
Exhale slowly for 6-8 through pursed lips, this helps you breathe more air out so that your next breath can be deeper.
A longer out breathe means that the balance of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide is just right.
Count down ten long breathes to feel the calming effects immediately, triggering the relaxation response.