When faced with stressful situations the body takes on a series of biochemical changes that affect the body and mind. These changes were designed to enable us to flight or flee when faced with a life-threatening situation.
Great for the caveman who had to flee the saber toothed tiger! These days however we rarely have to fight or flee for our lives however we still manage to turn on the stress response often many times each day.Our saber toothed tigers come in many forms: the morning commute, deadlines, demands of family and friends, a “to do” list a mile long, financial worries and obligations, etc. I could go on and on. Our body is constantly in a state of fight or flight!
When our body elicits the stress response the following changes occur:
- heart rate increases
- breathing rate increases
- muscle tension increase
- blood pressure increases
- digestion decreases
- reproduction decreases
- responses of your immune and inflammatory systems decrease
The same mechanism that turned on the stress response can turn it off!
As soon as you decide that a situation is no longer threatening, your brain stops sending panic messages to your nervous system. Three minutes after you cease to send out the danger signals all of the systems in your body return to normal functioning. Herbert Benson, a leading researcher on stress referred to this natural restorative process as “The Relaxation Response”