Stress: Let It Go and Trust Your Fight or Flight

Millions of years ago, as man developed into the type of organism that we are today, we developed a survival mechanism that allows us to react quickly and accurately to a potentially deadly threat. Today, we call this response fight or flight. This phenomenon is extremely basic and essential.

Once our mind perceives a serious threat, the autonomic nervous system will prepare the body for a rapid and powerful response. Vital organ function and energy systems will be altered during this time of duress. This is all coordinated by the hypothalamus, which is located just above the brain stem. Some of these changes include increased heart rate, increase circulation to muscles and heart, increased blood pressure, rapid breathing, bronchiole dilation, glucose and adrenaline secretion.

These changes in the body are fantastic immediately before a car crash, during childbirth or when being chased by saber tooth tiger. However, when the body remains in the state of high alert for long periods of time, this survival technique eventually turns against us, causing potential negative chronic side effects.

Even though a tight deadline at work seems to be a life or death situation, it is not. You will live to see another day, even if you do not completely finish the job. An overbearing parent can make you feel as if you have no control and that “you’d be better off dead,” yet you won’t die from this experience.

We need to put in perspective the realistic consequences from these daily stressful situations. A true fight or flight stress response could happen only once every few months or even every few years. Some individuals may never experience this type of stress in their life. So relax, and remember your adrenal glands are like a get out of jail free card in Monopoly—use them wisely.


EricEric Wilson is a corrective exercise specialist and owner/creator of Movement Sciences located in Copley Square. He earned his BS in exercise physiology, and currently holds four nationally recognized certifications. He plays rugby for one of the premier clubs in the United States, and coaches as well. Movement Sciences offers individual and small group personal training sessions. Eric works with an extremely diverse population ranging from children to more “mature” individuals with differing abilities.  His philosophy on exercise remains the same regardless of the group: movement first before anything else. You can reach Eric at: for a complementary fitness/movement assessment.