When we become threatened, we experience a surge of chemicals designed to allow us to survive through whatever the event is. The physiological effects are increased adrenaline, acceleration of heart and lung action, shaking, dilation of pupils and more. Cortisol, known as the "stress hormone," is an integral part of our body's "fight, flight or freeze" response. The fight, flight or freeze response is essentially a state of acute stress.
While stress is usually seen as a negative, it is beneficial if we need the surge of chemicals to help us fight, flight or freeze to avoid danger. However, it is only useful in short bursts. Many of us get caught in this perpetual state, never releasing it from our system and returning to normal, or homeostasis.
In fact, living in this kind of biological survival state can make us more vulnerable to common physical ailments that are related to or triggered by stress: cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Why It's Essential to Pay Attention
Animals in the wilderness shake, tremble, run, or do other physical activities to discharge the effect of these stress chemicals on their body. The natural human tendency is to do this too. But, we are often told (by ourselves or others) to "calm down," "get it together," "stop being so sensitive," and "be a big boy/girl and suck it up."
When we purge the survival chemicals after a trauma, it shows our primitive brain that we survived and we are safe. This sends a signal to the cognitive brain to process the information and throw out the irrelevant associations related to it. Facing and surviving a trauma, if discharged in a healthy way, can actually help us feel more empowered and able to handle things in the future. It can even create a sense of security.
If we don't discharge the trauma though, the primitive brain freezes the event in our systems. Anything in the future that reminds of us this original event can trigger further responses.
A Simple Fight or Flight Calming Technique
Donna Eden, an energy medicine pioneer offers one of my favorite techniques for calming the fight or flight pattern. This is straight from her award-winning book, Energy Medicine.
The triple warmer meridian is an energy pathway in your body that's responsible for the fight or flight response. It starts at the tip of the ring finger, travels up to the neck, behind the ears, and ends at the temples. You can use the electromagnetic energies of your hands to calm this energy by tracing part of this pathway backward.
Place your fingers at your temples. Hold for one deep breath, again breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
On another deep in-breath, slowly slide your fingers up and around your ears, smoothing the skin while maintaining some pressure.
On the out breath, slide your fingers down and behind your ears, press them down the sides of your neck, and hang them on your shoulders.
Push your fingers into your shoulders and then, when you are ready, firmly drag them over the tops of your shoulders, and smooth them to the middle of your chest, with one arm resting on top of the other. This is the heart chakra. It brings you home to yourself.
Hold here for several deep breaths.
To see a video of Donna doing this exercise, Google "triple warmer smoothie Donna Eden."