Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introducing Your Fight or Flight Response ……10
The Problem With the Fight or Flight Response 14
Chapter 2: An Introduction to Neurotransmitters ……………17
What is a Flow State?..18
How Neurotransmitters Work……….21
Chapter 3: Foods, Medications and Essential Oils for Calm – Should You Use
How We Already Manipulate Our Neurotransmitters …………23
Other Substances That Affect Your Neurotransmitters………28
Chapter 4: How to Combat Anxiety and Avoid Panic Attacks …………..30
Panic Attack Symptoms ………………30
What is a Normal Heart Rate During a Panic Attack? ……….33
Managing Anxiety and Panic Attacks……………..35
How to Combat Anxiety and Panic Attacks by Controlling Your Thoughts and
The AWARE Technique for Panic Attacks………40
Chapter 5: Using CBT to Take Control of Your Thoughts..43
Behaviorism and a Brief Psychology History Lesson…………44
Introducing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ………46
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques ……..47
Thought Recording ……48
Hypothesis Testing ……50
How to be Socially Fearless With Hypothesis Testing……….51
Chapter 6: An Introduction to Meditation and How to Use It …………….53
Mindfulness Meditation 54
Some Tips and Advice .56
Chapter 7: Powerful Breathing Techniques and Visualizations ………..58
Other Breathing Methods and Visualizations…..60
Chapter 8: Power Positions, Facial Feedback, Priming and Grounding……………..62
Power Positions ………..63
Chapter 9: Cognitive Biases – How to Make Better Decisions ………….67
Gambler’s Fallacy ……..68
Risk Aversion ……………68
Functional Fixedness …69
Hindsight Bias …………..69
Contrast Effect ………….70
Chapter 10: Conclusions and Bringing it All Together…….71
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The Problem With the Fight or Flight Response
The problem with this response is that it is still the same one we had in the wild. Our lives have changed a huge amount in a short space of time and unfortunately our bodies haven’t had the chance to catch up.
Sometimes, a fight or flight response is still exactly what you need. If you get into a physical confrontation, or if you’re pinned under a rubble, then all that heightened strength, power and reflexes is going to be very useful. But in other scenarios, we can interpret a situation as dangerous and react inappropriately. For example, when you’re giving a speech, having that much adrenaline is going to make life more difficult. The tunnel vision and focus that the fight or flight response gives you will make it more difficult for you to come up with creative phrases and your sensitivity to your surroundings will make you jumpy and twitchy. Meanwhile, adrenaline causes other symptoms such as shaking and this means that your audience will be able to physically tell that you’re scared. If you look nervous, then the assumption will be that you don’t have confidence in yourself or in what you’re saying and thus whatever you’re saying will be undermined.
The same is true on a date or in an interview. Again it boils down to evolution – if someone seems nervous it suggests that they are our inferiors and thus it undermines whatever it is that they’re saying and makes us less likely to take them seriously.
When we panic we’re less able to make smart decisions, we’re less able to speak with authority and we come across to others as weak.
Worse is if you have a phobia or an anxiety disorder. Those who suffer from agoraphobia for instance might become worked into such a severe stress response that they begin to hyperventilate. This in turn can cause fainting which of course is not at all adaptive and can ultimately be crippling and prevent you from living a normal life.
Here’s another one: fight or flight actually inhibits erections. This means that if you’re very stressed then you won’t be able to get an erection as a male – which in turn is one of the key causes of impotence. It makes sense: if you’re in immediate danger, why would it be useful to send blood to your penis?
Finally, the other reason that the fight or flight response can be a bad thing is that it can become chronic. This basically means that you’re in a constant ‘low level’ fight or flight response which ultimately means that you think you’re constantly in some kind of danger. This is once again a result of the gulf between our evolution and our modern lifestyles. When we were still evolving, stress was only ever acute and would be caused by things like forest fires or predators.
Today though, our stress tends to last much longer and be caused by things like angry bosses, deadlines, debt, moving home, Christmas, relationships, tax, wedding planning, chronic illness…
These stresses then continue to affect us for a long time. If you’re in debt, then having dilated pupils and tense muscles is not going to help you get out of it. Moreover, the fact that your blood is being directed away from your digestion and away from your immune system means you’re more likely to get indigestion and more likely to become ill. Likewise, a constantly elevated heart rate can lead to heart problems, while constant adrenaline can eventually cause adrenal fatigue.
In short, stress can take a serious toll on the body and eventually leave you feeling ill, exhausted and broken.
“Divert all energy to thrusters!”
“But captain… what about the life support unit?”
“I said ALL energy!”
Chapter 2: An Introduction to Neurotransmitters
Before we go into this in more detail, it’s first useful to look in a little more detail at this response and the neurotransmitters that cause it. There are some subtleties here that many people miss and understanding them is one of the keys to overcoming unwanted stress and anxiety.
Firstly: it’s important to recognize that no two fight or flight responses are the exact same. In other words, stress is a broad term for a large number of different experiences all caused by slightly different ratios of chemicals.
For example, the stress that you feel before an exam is very different from the stress you feel when having a panic attack late at night. Likewise, the stress that you feel in an argument with your partner is very different from the stress that you feel when you’re going down a mountain quickly.
This is what can sometimes mark the difference between a ‘positive’ stress response and a negative one. And perhaps the most well-publicized example of a ‘positive’ stress response is that of the ‘flow state’.
What is a Flow State?
A flow state is a state of heightened performance without many of the downsides we normally associate with stress. The most common example is in extreme sports where someone who is going down a mountain on a snowboard might find themselves subjectively experience the ‘slowing of time’. They are exhilarated and completely focussed on what they’re doing, which allows them to react with incredible reactions and to heighten their performance to incredible degrees.
Some athletes will describe similar experiences when they’re breaking records and giving their best performances on the field, track or court; suddenly time slows down and they feel completely in-tune with their bodies. Rappers describe something similar, as do writers when they get into ‘the zone’ (which is generally regarded as being a synonym for flow). If you’ve ever been in a conversation and appeared to completely lose track of time for hours while being completely engaged in what you’re saying, then that too is a sign of flow.
So what’s happening here? Ultimately it comes down to a very similar set of signals from your brain, resulting in a very similar cascade of neurotransmitters but with a few subtle differences.
What you’re telling your brain in this instant is that what you’re doing is incredibly important and possibly even ‘life or death’ (as in the case of extreme sports). At the same time though, you’re also telling your brain that you’re enjoying the experience which slightly changes the chemical profile. Now you likely have an increase in serotonin (the feel-good hormone that numbs pain) and research suggests you also get an increase in anandamide – which is the ‘bliss’ neurotransmitter that also increases creative problem solving. This same neurotransmitter is associated with the use of marijuana! You probably would experience less cortisol meanwhile which is what makes us feel anxious and paranoid. So you still get the focus and the heightened performance but instead of feeling bad with it, you instead feel right at the top of your game.Other Details
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