“Whorl! Whorl! Whorl!” shrieked the house alarm, startling Laura from an already restless slumber. She sat straight up with her eyes wide, and looked around the dark room anxiously. Wishing for the umpteenth time that her husband was home from travel, she bolted from bed and stood motionless in the dark. “Now would be a great time to have a big, BIG, dog,” she mused as she listened intently.
Primed for flight, she tiptoed to the bedroom door and silently locked it. A second later, she jumped as the phone on the nightstand began to ring. With one hand on the receiver and the other over her heart, she heard, “This is your security alarm center calling….” After a rapidly whispered pass-code exchange, the service person informed her that the motion detector had been tripped in the garage area and a police car was dispatched to her location.
Just then, a bright light flashed through the window and moved along the bedroom wall as a police car pulled into her driveway. Sending up a mental prayer of thanks, and motivated to act, Laura flew across the room. She clicked open the bedroom door and peered into the dark hall.
With all senses in a heightened state, she paused to listen for sounds coming from the floor below. Hearing only the unrelenting screech of the alarm and emboldened by the officer now at the door, she sped down the steps. Again pausing at the bottom, her eyes quickly scanned the darkness. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, it took two strides to cross the foyer. She flung the door wide and breathed a sigh of relief as she stared up at the man in uniform.
Officer Wilson had been perusing her neighborhood when the call was broadcast across the radio wire. Per his instructions, Laura gladly turned off the noisy alarm, then stepped out onto the grass to wait while he moved through her home. With arms tightly crossed and all manner of wild thoughts flittering through her brain, Laura was surprised to see him return only moments later with a light smile on his lips.
“I walked through the house and checked the garage,” he said. “All appears to be locked and in order and your intruder seems to be a hungry baby mouse!” He chuckled. “He must have tripped the motion detector while munching his way into your bag of bird seed and corn.”
Wholly relieved now, and feeling a teeny bit foolish, Laura gratefully thanked the officer and locked the house up for the night. Crawling back into bed, she was amazed by how tired she felt. Only two more days until her hubby came home…maybe it was time to get that dog he wanted …and a kitty too!
PRESERVATION is the single minded focus for this amazing creation we call our body. And though man has evolved beyond the “java man,” homo-sapiens, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnum states, this stubborn focus on survival continues to protect the human form today. During times of upset, or situations man would avoid if possible, as well as times when man feels he has no control, the human brain receives a warning message: “Danger!” This ‘warning begins a chain of events that are designed to assist the body through a perilous time.
The actual chain of events that takes place within, initiated by the Danger’ warning, is referred to as Fight or Flight. This process assists the brain to think more clearly, the body to move rapidly and even the vision to enhance. In fact, all the senses become sharpened and the blood capillaries of the hands and feet collapse. (Amazingly, shutting down of these smaller blood vessels protects the limbs from excessive bleeding during possible injury.)
In the 1950’s, the famous researcher Hans Selye divided the physiology of Fight or Flight into three distinct phases. The first phase is the Adaption phase. It is initiated when there is a fear or confrontation. During this phase, the body intermittently secretes slightly higher levels of hormones. The second phase is the Alarm Phase. This is the high point of the stress during which the individual is working through the incident. Throughout this state, when the stress is constant enough, or great enough, it causes sustained excessive levels of certain adrenal hormones.
The third phase is the Exhaustion Phase. The body’s ability to cope is now depleted. The adrenal hormones plummet from excessively high to excessively low. Tired now, the body moves through a rest and recovery phase which requires about 24 – 48 hours. While recuperating, there is less cortisol secreted plus, and the body is less able to respond to any additional stressful situations. In addition, the portions of the body that were over stimulated during the heightened second phase become more resistant to stimulation. The body has exhausted its resources. It’s tired and in need of rest and reprieve. In fact, the word Stress actually pertains to the strain placed on the body during the Fight or Flight activities.
In antiquity, the danger alarm would trigger Fight or Flight in cases of physical jeopardy, such as when man found himself facing a saber-toothed tiger. In this contemporary world, survival threats primarily stem from psychosomatic pressures, such as when man finds himself late for a meeting, or when he is awakened from sleep by the sound of the house alarm.
While we may not need this means of preservation activated every time we are experiencing a challenging day, unfortunately, the body itself has no reasoning power to determine when to proceed forward and when to remain idle. For every case the brain determines to be taxing or a threat, it executes the same programmed steps without discrimination.
In essence, Fight or Flight has become a double-edged sword. It miraculously enables a small woman to run from an enemy, or lift and remove the front of a car from the body of her wounded child. Yet during extended periods of emotional upset such as bereavement, this otherwise wondrous process becomes an insidious, persistent and dangerous enemy.
While natural, grief is a distinctively stress-filled experience. (And interestingly, the physical and emotional effects have been described by survivors as feeling very similar to fear.) As the emotions cycle through peaks and valleys, the Danger message is sent to the brain time and again without relief.
Unable to fully recuperate between cycles, the exhausted body begins to weaken, making it susceptible to infection and a host of illnesses. It is therefore critical to be as proactive as possible. Rest often, take long slow deep breaths when possible, eat fresh healthy foods, drink abundant amounts of water and replenish the body’s stores of calcium and magnesium.
But most of all…be gentle with you. Here’s wishing you much peace and strength.Tags: grief, hope