Appropriate Stress Responses – What to learn from your pup!
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
The book Exuberant Animal by Frank Forencich is a great book on creating change in the American, western, affluent lifestyle.
My pup Lloyd on the hunt in a fresh winter snow… Short-term, sympathetic, fight or flight in full force!
Many clients deal with chronic stress; be it physical, chemical, or mental stress our body deals the same way. Our body produces neurological and hormonal changes to deal with short-term threats no matter the cause. One section of the book discusses high contrast living. The idea is that we need to have all out stress responses and then periods of total relaxation. Just read the following excerpt:
We turn to the dog on the porch. His baseline norm is relaxation; unless otherwise stimulated, he’ll stay in his long-term, anabolic, tissue-rebuilding phase as long as possible. His norm is feed and breed physiology. He’s content in this phase and will stay there until further notice.
But now suppose there’s an unfamiliar sound or odor at the front gate. Alert! An intruder! Our friend’s short-term physiology kicks in instantly. His amygdala sparks a danger response and a hormonal cascade that generates barking and a threat posture. Within a second, he’s up and ready for action. Heart rate up, blood pressure up, glucose levels up, digestion down. Cortisol surges, doing its powerful work.
If the intruder turns out to actually be a hostile invader, our faithful friend is ready to leap, snarl, and repel. But when the intruder turns out to be a friendly neighbor who’s been visiting your house every week for the last 10 years, the whole system changes polarity in an instant. Short term physiology immediately shuts down, adrenals relax, blood pressure drops, vessels dilate, and our friend returns to the serious work of napping and rebuilding his body. There’s no obsessing over the encounter, no second guessing his decision to “go-short-term”. There no moment-by-moment review of the encournter. No lingering rationalizations. No, it’s all very simple. Threat over, turn off the stress response. Forget it; it’s done.
Analysis can show a fantastic example of the human mind creating a stress response by having thought and memory. How many of us would bark and snarl, realize it was someone we know, then be profoundly embarrassed and beat ourselves up for days. We relive the same physiological response just remembering the incident. By thinking about barking, “heart rate up, glucose up, digestion down.” We think to ourselves, “I can’t believe I barked at my friend” and then relive the encounter 5 or 10 times in the next few days.
Chronic mental stress may be the most difficult to handle because changing your mind is a complex but workable issue. However, remembering situations of the past that are now unchangeable are a needless stressor. We must only utilize mental stress on something we can change and learn to live and let live the unchangeable.
We need to learn from our furry friends. If there’s a problem, deal with it. When it’s done it’s done. Drop your thoughts, judgments, and memories of it and move on. Back to digestion, tissue repair, and creating love for our community.