Stress Response for Automatic Defense

The stress response is the normal response of the body to situations or events which may be threats to our safety. It was built into us for our own protection.

As you read these words you can remember any number of times when something took you by surprise.

Have you ever been walking along a walking trail near your home in a relaxed state, enjoying the fresh air, peaceful surroundings, when suddenly a huge dog begins barking loudly from behind a fence just a few feet away?

It's so startling that it might as well be a mountain lion.

You quickly experience the first stage of the General Adaptation Syndrome, alarm.

We've named this normal happening a syndrome - so you know it's something that doctors and other scientists have studied extensively.

Dr. Hans Selye apparently was the first scientist to discover then fully develop stress theories and substantiate those theories through laboratory and clinical studies. He came up with the name, General Adaptation Syndrome, or GAS.

You may also have heard of it by the term, fight-or-flight.

Our ancestors from the caveman era needed this built-in mechanism all the time because of physical threats to their safety.

Hollywood film makers love to make use of it - and it's highly effective in the modern surround-sound theaters.

The result is pumping adrenaline and a pounding heart along with suddenly increased alertness. Blood pressure goes up and metabolism is accelerated. Blood vessels open up so more blood goes to large muscle groups.

But how we react individually varies tremendously.

The extent of the initial reaction depends on a lot of factors - including prior conditioning, state of mind at that moment, and maybe even what you ate during your most recent meal.

So the alarm phase is the first of three phases of the general adaptation syndrome, which is also the stress response.

The next two are the resistance stage then the exhaustion stage.

The resistance stage is also sometimes called the adaptation stage.

Most of us rarely reach the exhaustion stage, but those who do are those who experience the most devastating effects of stress.

The permanent damage is many times minimal - but if there are repeated stressful incidents within short time frames, your body's reaction can be devastating.

Frequently the alarming stimulus is not so blatant. It may be very subtle - and not consciously recognized as threatening.

But since the subconscious mind makes a record of everything that happens, you may not notice at all until much later, when a lot of little, seemingly insignificant happenings or perceived happenings produce some negative effects to your mental or physical health.

Children are especially vulnerable. Obviously each of us came through childhood - so we may retain varying degrees of that vulnerability.

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