The fight-or-flight response, also known as the acute stress response, refers to a physiological reaction that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically. The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay, and deal with a threat or to run away to safety.
The fight-or-flight response was first described in the 1920s by American physiologist Walter Cannon. Cannon realised that a chain of rapidly occurring reactions inside the body help mobilize the body’s resources to deal with threatening circumstances.
In response to acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. After the threat is gone, it takes between twenty to sixty minutes for the body to return to its pre-arousal levels.
Every human being has the fight-or-flight response. It is very healthy to have it because it keeps you safe in the face of danger and anything frightening. When you encounter something frightening, your heat beat quickened, you begin to breathe faster, and your entire body become tense and ready to take action. This response can happen in the face of an imminent physical danger or as a result of a more psychological threat. It enables you to quickly analyse the threat and respond appropriately. The fight-or-flight response is also known as the acute stress response. Essentially, the response prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. It is also important to note that the response can be triggered by threats that are real or imaginary.
Stress is not really a bad thing. There are lots of good things about stress but most time when people reveal they are stressed they do this with a negative tone. There are good stress and bad stress. How do you tell the difference between good stress and bad stress? Feeling stressed can feel perfectly normal, especially during exam time. You might notice that sometimes being stressed-out motivates you to focus on your work, yet at other times, you feel incredibly overwhelmed and can’t concentrate on anything. While stress affects everyone in different ways, there are two major types of stress: stress that’s beneficial and motivating— good stress — and stress that causes anxiety and even health problems— bad stress.
Stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.
The fight-or-flight response is one benefit of stress. In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. In cases where the threat is actually life threatening, the fight-or-flight response can actually play a critical role in your survival. By gearing you up to fight or flee, the fight-or-flight response makes it more likely that you will survive the danger. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.
To understand why stress can have negative impacts on your health, you must first understand the physiological changes that occur within your body during the fight or flight response. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate.
It may be tough to tell when you’re experiencing good or bad stress, but there are important ways that your body lets you know that you’re struggling with too much stress. Watch out for the following warning signs:
• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
• Get sick more often with colds
• Body aches
• Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare up
• Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but you can improve the way you respond to stress and avoid or change some of the situations that create negative stress. Understanding your stress level is important. If nothing in your life causes you any stress or excitement, you may become bored or may not be living up to your potential. If everything in your life, or large portions of your life, cause you stress, you may experience health or mental problems that will make your behaviour worse.
Recognising when you are stressed and managing your stress can greatly improve your life. Some short-term stress for example what you feel before an important job presentation, test, interview, or sporting event may give you the extra energy you need to perform at your best. But long-term stress for example constant worry over your job, school, or family may actually drain your energy and your ability to perform well. It can lead to anxiety and depression as well.
Sometime you can experience what the expert calls stress overload. The body’s autonomic nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. If you’re stressed over an argument with a friend, a traffic jam on your commute to work, or a mountain of bills, for example, your body can still react as if you’re facing a life-or-death situation. When you repeatedly experience the fight or flight stress response in your daily life, it can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and leave you vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional problems.
The following table lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying
• Irritability or short temper
• Agitation, inability to relax
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Depression or general unhappiness
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhoea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress overload can also be caused by other psychological or medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor to help determine if your symptoms are stress-related.
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you or forces you to adjust can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion. Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be self-generated, for example, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.
Remember not all stress are negative, you need certain kind of stress to excel in life. Everyone respond to the same kind of stress in different ways.