Stress & Fight Flight Response

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Post 2 Navigating Safely Through Covid 19

As every aspect of our lives changes so quickly, we are all struggling to keep pace with what to do. We are constantly hearing the words fear and lockdown. We are following the news and listening to family and friends both here and abroad.

We are coping with so much.

Our current circumstances are activating a Fight Flight response. We are all familiar with the term but what does it mean to us now and what do we do with it?

The fight flight response is in-built in us all. We have no way to stop it from activating but we can manage some of our responses too it. It is natures way of pumping adrenaline so we can get to safety. We need it when we are experiencing life threatening circumstances. It is the prolonged response and how we reduce the fight flight reaction that is really important. Staying in this state for long periods causes harm to the body as cortisol puts a lot of pressure on our physical and mental states.

Immediate signs of fight flight are:

  • Our energy might be really out of focus- we can have too much or too little.
  • We can’t concentrate or stay with a task.
  • We eat more.
  • We sleep less.
  • We exercise less.
  • We are agitated.

Given our restrictions with social distancing and either finding ourselves out of work or working from home, here are some suggestions that can apply to the key areas that help reduce stress.

Deep Breathing, paying attention to the body:

When I work with clients around deep breathing, I find it’s rare that we do it correctly. Deep breathing must be really slow and come from the belly. Most of us breathe using our shoulders and do it too quickly - this only makes us dizzy and more stressed.

When we do this exercise, we should not make any sound, always breathe as if there is a feather or bubble in front of you - you don’t want to suck it in or blow it away. Imagine your lungs are in your belly. Full lungful equals full belly, empty lung equals flat belly. I recommend we do this 5 times. First thing in the morning is a good start.

Physical Activity

This is proving quite challenging for most of us. We have all noticed people out walking and jogging more. This is great if we can do it. I saw on the news this morning that neighbours were engaging in exercise on their street at the same time. I think this is great and we will see more of this.

Yoga, Pilates and tai chi are all really good for balancing both the body and the mind. Exercises that get the blood flow to both sides of the brain are particularly good as this calms the brain down. Think of exercises were the left arm does some different movement than the right arm, for example, one hand does a circular movement on the belly while the other taps the head.

Social Support:

This is going to be really difficult as face to face is quite different now. We need to physically see other people to attune to facial expressions and connect emotionally. If we only text we frequently feel misunderstood. Here are some suggestions:

If you live in an estate or street -

Put some garden furniture out the front garden and spend some time there. This will allow for social contact while maintaining social distance. The human contact will be so helpful.

Organise exercise or safe activities.

Make sure all neighbours can communicate and respect the wishes of those who don’t want to join a whats app or to come out.

If you live away from people -

Try to make sure you can Skype/Zoom/facetime family and friends. Lots of people are sharing apps were several people can talk together. We are learning fast!

Managing Agitation

We are all on high alert and it is impossible to be calm and contained in a way we might like. When we snap and growl or shout at each other, make provision that we can apologise and talk it through after.

Be aware that if someone is extremely stressed they are going to have difficulty thinking.

We need to maintain a level of routine, this is different for us all, but when young children are around it is especially important.

Have designated work areas for family members.

Respect each others’ space.

Get dressed each day.

Eat meals together at the kitchen table.

Share the workload in the house so people don’t become exhausted.

Make time for daily processing, talk about what is happening and how it makes you feel.

Understand that we all have different ways of coping and we aren’t all in the same place with understanding our rapidly changing world.

Allow everyone to apologise.