AKA: Chronic Stress Wind Up!
If you experience food intolerances, regular headaches and migraines, sensitivity to light and noise and a range of seemingly unrelated but frustrating health issues, then this is exactly where you need to be right now!
Due to a series of built-in triggers, the brain knows when it needs to activate the fight or flight survival mechanism. It’s called the Sympathetic Nervous System and we’ve known for a long time that it exists. When it activates, it suppresses your digestive system, reproductive system, immune system and the repair functions of the body.
Under normal circumstances, the Sympathetic Nervous System activates in response to extreme physical, cognitive or emotional stress. This is useful as it allows our body to adapt to situations and ensures we have enough fuel for the crisis. Medical science has led to a relatively clear understanding of the reactions in the body in these situations.
What we haven’t explored in depth is what happens when this survival mechanism stays switched on or fired up for extended periods of time. This is when our body’s hardwired stress responses cross out of ‘normal circumstance’ where they are helpful, to a scenario in which prolonged physiological change can actually cause harm.
Modern life doesn’t improve this scenario. We leave demanding jobs and arrive home with financial stress sitting like heavy weights on our shoulders. We wake up with a to-do list as long as our arm. We go to bed knowing the same will wait for us the next day. Some of us have businesses, noisy or demanding family lives. Others have illnesses or sick loved ones that we worry over.
We lie awake at night worrying about mortgages, exams, interviews, relationships, and the list goes on. Typically, we don’t think of these things when we think of fight or flight. But they represent only a handful of issues that can activate the survival mechanism and keep it activated.
The rest of the list may surprise you. It includes the constant barrage of light and noise we deal with, the poor posture we often engage in when we spend hours looking down at our laptops and handheld devices, and the simple fact that many of us are living life in a‘wound up’ state.
Can we live life in complete silence with the lights turned off? No. Can we avoid the use of technology? Absolutely not! Can we avoid stress and the demands of modern life completely, never facing a financial, relational or health stressor ever again? The answer to that is a resounding no!
We can think about whether or not to flex a muscle or go for a walk, but we don’t think about whether or not to go into fight or flight mode. It’s automatic.