NOTE: My local paper (for which these articles were first written) started off very small just a few months ago and is growing beautifully. Unfortunately that means that I no longer get a full page for my column! All is good though – a link will be provided to this blog so all my readers can carry on following…..
Downside though is that I have to flood this blog site will all the catch-up articles!!! Happy reading!
We’ve spoken about the Fight or Flight Response and briefly discussed how your body’s defence systems by-pass your brain, scooting into action before your logical brain has time to wake up and notice what is happening. In this post I’d like to dig a bit deeper into how this works.
The Fight or Flight Response (FFR) has a very serious job to do. It is our first line of defence when something potentially bad is happening or about to happen. It puts our body into ‘high alert’ by flooding our system with adrenaline and a whole cocktail of other hormones and making sure that blood is diverted away from your gut and other non-essential parts such as your brain, Yep – your body knows that your brain is useless if your head has been chomped by that sabre-toothed tiger. In such dangerous conditions your legs are the most important parts of your body! The problem, though, is that we no longer know how to switch that response off.
Think of a dog. These guys are masters of dealing with FFR. Pooch is lying in the sun, snoring, twitching feet, legs every which way and seemingly without a care in the world when something triggers him. He shoots up, looking totally confused for about half-a-second and stands on high alert – tail fluffed up, hair sticking out so he looks bigger; maybe even barking. And then he realises that it was just a dream, or that there’s no danger and with a very sheepish look he settles back down and two minutes later he’s snoring again.
What’s happened is that FFR response was triggered, but as soon as his mind caught up and worked out that all was safe in his world, his body reacted by relaxing.
The jargon stuff is that the Sympathetic Nervous System jumped into action letting the Amygdala know something was up. The Amygdala notified the Command Centre (the Hypothalamus) which sends in the solders to wake up the Adrenals who flood the body with epinephrine (also known as adrenalin). Epinephrine flooding your body is a bit like stamping down on the accelerator of your car – nought to sixty in no time! In my mind, this is probably the most efficient system we have in our body! There is a whole cascade of stuff that happens, almost instantaneously, without us being in the least bit aware of it. Then, when the cerebral cortex (the logical part of your brain) catches up and realises there isn’t really any danger, the Parasympathetic Nervous System kicks in and allows the body to settle back down to it’s normal state.
But what happens when the body doesn’t settle back down? When we keep triggering the FFR? This is what our modern society is constantly doing – and we will look at that in the next edition.
Did you miss the previous posts in this series? Here’s the links….