Happy Thursday! Yes I'm in a better mood this week. Not that anything is markedly better.... but I'm feeling super grateful for my community of awesome peeps and the support and great convos we have <3 One topic that seems to keep coming up is this interesting thing about the possum, which we technically covered in a newsletter back in May, but I'm gonna go over it again because I think it's really important and especially useful right now.

It's all in relation to the fight or flight response, something I talk about a lot in yoga, and something that might be getting triggered even more as we face upsetting, challenging, and uncomfortable scenarios more and more. So what is the flight or flight response?

Fight or flight is a reaction in the body that's triggered when we sense danger, physically or mentally. It was built into us back in the day, to protect us from scary things like saber-tooth tigers. But we don't run into those often these days; still it is triggered constantly. Anything that feels threatening, from an argument with a boss, to a loud truck rumbling by, can trigger this response in the body. It's the looming to-do list, the waiting for an important call, the going to a job you hate everyday, the financial worries, the non-supportive friends, the anger or resentment you hang on to. All of these things, and so many more, are our modern-day triggers for fight or flight, causing us to live in this mode for hours (maybe days?) on end, when we were only supposed to be in it for 60-90 seconds at a time.

The symptoms of fight or flight are pretty akin to symptoms of anxiety. And, if not countered by the rest and digest response (more on that later), will lead straight to a panic attack. Not surprisingly, these symptoms are also quite similar to those of an adrenaline rush. Because that's what's happening in the body: you are being prepared to either fight, or run for dear life. A bunch of hormones flood to your brain, but we don't always fight or run, do we? Most often, we take the 3rd path: freeze

Because we're civilized. Because you can't freak out in the board meeting, or on the sidewalk. We restrain ourselves constantly - so where does that energy go? You probably already know - nowhere. It's what keeps you up at night. It's what seems to fade away after a few beers but comes back the next day. It's what keeps you feeling stressed. 

So here's the example I used back in May: a possum with a big dog running towards him. The possum can't fight the dog (too big), and he can't run from it (too fast), so he plays dead (freeze). But once the dog has sniffed around and deemed him useless, the possum's body will shake vigorously for a few moments before he gets up and continues on with his night. Because freeze is a common tactic used by the possum, this release of adrenaline has been built into him so he's not walking around with all that unspent energy and anxiety. 

Now, of course we still need adrenaline and the fight or flight response, but too much of a good thing is... you know. These frequent surges of adrenaline and the way it gets stuck in the body can not only lead you to anxiety, but can cause weight gain, increase blood pressure, and up your chances of heart attack or stroke. 

Okay, now that you're good and freaked out, what do we do?!

First, know your triggers. What feels threatening, unsafe, or unstable to you? How can you avoid or cut back on those scenarios?

Second, find a way to release the energy! Running, dancing, kickboxing, playing, or even just a good old shake could help get it out. 

Third, counter fight or flight with rest and digest. Where the fight or flight response is a product of the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system can bring you back into balance and allow your body to rest and repair. Anything from breathing exercises, to yoga, to properly winding down before bedtime can help activate the rest and digest response. It's basically about slowing down, finding ways YOU like to relax, and releasing the worries that might keep you wound up. 

Alas, more to cover but let's continue another time. Send me your questions or ideas!