All of us have experienced stress at one point. It could be work or school-related. Financial challenges, public speaking sporting competitions, and yes, pandemics, can all induce stress. Violence, be it something we witness or something we directly experience, is certainly stressful.
Stress, of course, is not new. It has been around as long as we humans have existed. Over that time, there remains at least one constant: the way our bodies react to stress.
Here are some fundamental ways our bodies respond to stress.
- Breathing. Your breathing is more rapid as the body absorbs more oxygen in case you need to escape or fight.
- Heart Rate. Your heart rate also increases. This is another way the body energizes for flight or fight. You don’t even need to exert yourself. Think of a time you were in an argument or about to speak in front of a ground.
- Protect the blood. Arteries in our limbs contract as a means of limiting blood loss in case of a cut, stab, or laceration.
- Muscles contract. To protect our internal organs, our exterior muscles contact. This can be a challenge with sports performance, dance, or self-defense where we want our body to relax. It is difficult to strike or run quickly when your muscles tense.
- Pupils dilate. This improves our vision. We also tend to develop tunnel vision which limits to assess our larger surroundings for dangers and escape routes.
While the body’s natural responses can help us in stressful situations they can also challenge our capacity to perform. In future articles, we will look at these challenges in more detail and explore some training methods to manage yourself in stressful situations – in particular self defense situations.