With everything that’s gone on and is going on in the world this year, it’s completely understandable if your fight or flight response has been on overdrive lately. As I’ve written here many times over the past couple of years, the fight or flight response is the effect of your body’s sympathetic nervous system working to protect you from a perceived threat. That’s a very helpful response if you’re under immediate physical threat. It’s a very harmful response if you have a sense of being constantly threatened without actually being in imminent danger.
A fight or flight response chronically stuck in the on-position can lead to poor performance, bad decision making, and serious health issues that can shorten your life expectancy. The good news is that, in addition to a sympathetic nervous system, we’re all equipped with a parasympathetic nervous system. The nickname for that is the rest and digest response.
As Rick Hanson and others have pointed out, you can think of fight or flight as your body’s gas pedal and rest and digest as your body’s brakes. We all need them working in sync with each other to do our best and to live happier, healthier lives.
As I point out in the accompanying video that I was fortunate enough to shoot on a recent business trip/vacation with Diane, you can activate your rest and digest response at any time with simple rhythmic, repetitive motion. You don’t need to be in a canoe on a beautiful lake. You can take three deep breaths from your belly, you can do a few minutes of stretching, you can take a brief walk around the building. Anything that involves some rhythmic, repetitive motion is going to help you get back to your sweet spot by activating your rest and digest response. Heck, tuning into the rhythmic repetitive quality of this brief video is a good place to start. (Want more? Try this one too.)
Lord knows we could use some more peace and calm in the world these days. Why not spend a few moments contributing to that today by taking time to reduce your chronic fight or flight state by activating your rest and digest response?