Fight or Flight - The Modern Answer

Vince Courtney at Engllish Hypnotherapy

Considering Stress and Anxiety

I strongly believe that positive pressure to perform is good; yes you’ve read it right moderate anxiety is good for body and soul! Let’s be honest without anxiety or pressure I probably wouldn’t be here writing this article and you wouldn’t be sitting with your morning coffee and dunking biscuit reading it. What I mean by that is that anxiety and pressure has a very functional role within anyone’s life, it keeps you and I focused on things that need to be tackled and dealt with. What we do need to concern our self with is when we experience too much anxiety and for a prolonged period of time; if that happens look up and be concerned, it becomes a liability, it can increase your risk of a heart attack, or lower your defence to disease.

Over the years we have evolved as a species and our bodies have developed a set of warning and alarm systems that keep us all safe and protected from harm, anxiety is one of them. It warns us that there is a potential threat to our wellbeing, it keeps us on our toes and away from harm, it makes us approach whatever it is that is making us anxious with caution; it’s always sensible when sticking our head round a corner to see what’s there to do so with caution rather than charge in.

What is important to understand is what anxiety does for us and what it did for our ancestors wandering around in animal skins with their club in hand.

Fight or Flight!

Experiencing anxiety, stress, fear, whatever you chose to call it triggers the fight or flight response and several things happen the moment you experience anxiety, stress or fear:

• Your sympathetic nervous system begins to work overtime. (Part of our nervous system that controls our automatic body functions like heart beat and breathing)
• Your heart rate speeds up
• We breathe a lot faster
• Your muscles become tense and ready for action
• Blood is moved to different parts of the body in changed amounts
• Our digestion becomes slower or may even stop.

So what’s the difference between us or our ancestors? What’s the difference in the way our body reacts if we are confronted by a sabre-toothed tiger or a rather nasty and aggressive boss? Well the answer is


Prolonged periods of the above anxiety responses are damaging to our bodies and immune system, they mustn’t be left over active for too long or they will cause physical damage:

• An overactive sympathetic nervous system cause excessive body shaking.
• Heart muscles are damaged if the heart races for too long.
• Continued fast breathing can lead to hyperventilation.
• Headaches and muscle pain come from muscles being in a constant tense state.
• Blood pressure will rise and all the problems that brings.
• Our stomachs struggle and a range of associated problems occur

Well we’ve had to cope with this for thousands of years so what’s different now I hear you shout at the computer screen.

My response is let’s consider our cousin the cave man, there he is wandering along minding his own business when suddenly he is confronted by the sabre-toothed tiger; his fight or flight response kicks in, the body responds physically in just the way I have described above. Quite simply the body provides him with the physical requirements to either stand his ground and batter the long toothed beastie into the ground or run like mad until he’s out of harms way. It’s short, it’s sharp and it’s effective and our cousin and ultimately our species is preserved. After a period of recovery our cousin’s body functions return to normal and life continues ready for the next confrontation.

Fast forward several thousand years and you and I are wandering along through life, slightly better dressed and with phone in hand rather than club and we are confronted by the modern day equivalent of the sabre-toothed tiger; job insecurity, financial worries, a nasty boss, bullies, the list is endless. In just the same way as our caveman our fight or flight response kicks in and we are prepared physically to fight or run away from whatever it is that is causing us anxiety, stress or fear. The difference is that invariably we can do neither, we have no way of relieving the body changes, our anxiety, our stress and our fear just grows and grows with no relief. This is having a potential life threatening effect on our bodies.

The existence of the fight or flight response in us or more importantly not being able to rid ourselves of the physical side of it is leading to so many problems in modern day life:

Stress & anxiety                           Panic attacks
Headaches                                  High blood pressure
Smoking                                       Over eating
Nail biting                                     IBS
Lack of confidence                     Drugs abuse
Alcohol abuse                             Sleep issues
Muscle & pain issues                Temper tantrums

All of this from the inability to live as our ancestors did and fight or run for the hills!

You’re shouting at the computer again aren’t you? I can hear you exclaiming is there any hope for us? I can’t go and hit my nemesis and I have responsibilities so I can’t run away!

The good news is it’s a massive YES!

Like your ancestor you can achieve just what they did, you can seek out a quiet and safe place to slow all the physical responses to the anxiety and stress you are experiencing. All the above consequences are very effectively treated by clinical hypnotherapy but putting aside any of the above the mere process of hypnosis is the modern day equivalent of removing the physical response to fight of flight. During hypnosis you enter a trance like state that calms the mind and body, muscle tension is relieved, all the bio-chemical responses are released, you become totally relaxed. Many of the following benefits of hypnosis are:

• Your heart rate slows.
• Your breathing becomes deeper, slower and steady.
• The muscles throughout your body relax and become less tense.
• Blood flows evenly around the body.
• Your digestive system works more efficiently.
• Your mind relaxes and calmness comes over you.

Can you see the link with the fight or flight responses?

So you see we are no different from our ancestors; we experience exactly the same effects brought about by anxiety, stress and fear, what we have to learn to do is handle it in a modern way. No longer can you lash out in defence, not if you don’t want to do time, no longer can you run and hide and desert your responsibilities. Hypnotherapy can provide the relief from anxiety, stress and fear that most of us require at some points in our lives.

For more tips on how to deal with stress and anxiety in the modern age why not contact me.


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