We are all familiar with the “fight or flight” response to a stressor. This well-known stress response is activated automatically by our body to help us through any stressful situation. When we are exposed to a physical or emotional stress, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on and stimulates our adrenal glands to pump out epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones released from the adrenal gland help us acutely to survive the stressor at hand. The stress hormones help focus our attention, heighten our senses, increase our heart rate, increase our blood pressure, and rapidly mobilize energy for fuel. The stress response arms us for action.
The activation of the stress response gives us what our body needs to utilize immediately, whether we choose to “fight” or “run like hell”. Our chances of surviving any stressor are contingent on the activation of this acute stress response. After the stressful event, our body is able to recalibrate stress hormone levels and allow us to return to our baseline. The stress response works extremely rapidly to activate our nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system and metabolism. After the stressor, when we relax, our body is able to activate the relaxation response and take us off “high-alert ” status. Continue reading