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'Fight or Flight' and the Stress Response

Let's talk about the sympathetic nervous system. Ever give a presentation or public speech and you get sweaty palms/ pits, the hair on your back stands up, butterflies in your stomach and your mouth is so dry you can barely formulate words? This is your sympathetic nervous system at work (also known as our 'fight or flight' response)

This is a division of our autonomic nervous system (ANS) and whether we like it or not this system regulates our body's unconscious actions. In response to a stressor (ie. public speaking, encountering a Bear on a hike, first date, etc) our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear while increasing muscle blood flow, accelerating heart rate and respiration along with perspiration and other responses. Conversely, we have another division of our ANS, our parasympathetic nervous system, which does the exact opposite to keep us balanced and regulated. Too much or too little activity in this system can throw the entire body off.

Malfunctions within our sympathetic nervous system can lead to blood pressure issues, heart problems, erectile dysfunction and difficulty breathing (among others). Stress management, lifestyle changes and (at times) medication can help treat conditions relating to the ANS. Keeping an equal balance between these two systems is vital for everyday survival.

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