The fight-or-flight response

The days of being chased by a predator are long gone, but we are still wired for a fight-or-flight response.

Pair of birds fighting mid-flight

Today’s threats and demands are diverse and can last for long periods of time. The pressures of being a student, managing finances, dealing with conflict in your personal life or as part of your job, and raising a family are just a few of the many long-lasting, stress-provoking situations people face today. The body responds to these demands the same way it did when our ancestors faced a predator. However, staying in a heightened state of stimulation contributes to health problems.

The fight-or-flight (stress) response stimulates your body and prepares it to deal with danger. The response increases some of your body's processes including:

  • heart rate
  • breathing rate
  • muscle tension
  • blood pressure
  • insulin secretion
  • blood flow to the brain, lungs, heart and muscles
  • blood clotting

The fight-or-flight response also decreases some of your body's processes including:

  • blood flow to the kidneys, digestive tract and skin
  • interest in sex
  • tissue repair
  • immune system response

This state of stimulation contributes to physical and mental health problems, especially when stress is experienced for prolonged periods of time.

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