Building Resilience in a Fight or Flight World


Dads Building Resilience

What if fatigue, irritability, allergies, sensory overwhelm, and frequent illness aren’t the brain doing something wrong, but actually part of an intelligent and adaptive response?

In all these health challenges, the body’s own built-in mechanism for coming down from the fight-or-flight response has been largely overlooked. A chronically elevated fight-or-flight response is probably the most common challenge I see in my patients and loved ones, and it’s also a fairly simple one to solve.

Imagine for a moment you are standing in a field when suddenly an angry tiger comes out of nowhere. Your brain responds with an entire symphony of physiological changes to help you survive. This response is commonly referred to as “fight or flight.” It is the body’s innate resource for adapting to stress and building resilience using the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

However, our bodies were never designed to stay in fight-or-flight mode for more than a few hours or days. What is the cause for chronically elevated sympathetic nervous system activity, keeping people in a state of fight-or-flight? Well for one, the brain doesn’t know the difference between a tiger attack, fighting with our spouse, eating too much, sitting in a chair all day, too much screen time, or anxiety over a social event. We are constantly bombarded with stress triggers on physical, chemical, and emotional fronts.

While avoiding negative stressors is definitely a part of the solution, a huge missing piece of the puzzle lies in how we can improve the internal resilience of our body so stress doesn’t knock us off-kilter so easily. As the name suggests, the fight-or-flight stress response is built on the idea of fighting or fleeing something we perceive as dangerous. In either case, we must move our body to solve the problem. This is what nature intended, and this simple fact is key to understanding how we can come down off the fight-or-flight response and return rhythmic, healthy function to our nervous system.

Life-Giving Motion

We know movement is absolutely essential to healthy brain function and building resilience. Movement is also essential to healthy nervous system function. When we move, special receptors called proprioceptors send signals that activate the brain and downshift the nervous system from elevated sympathetic fight-or-flight response back toward the resting parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) baseline. This is why exercise has been shown to fight depression, and why if you go for a run you feel more energized than if you sit on the couch all day.

With upward of 100 joints, the spine is responsible for the lion’s share of proprioceptive feedback to the brain. The feet, which have more than 50 joints between them, come in second. While all movement is helpful to turn down the stress response, it’s essential to make sure the spine and feet are doing their jobs properly.

The body is a single interconnected, functional unit, and in order for the brain to get proper nourishment from proprioceptors, we need to be able to move like a well-oiled machine, with our joints gliding smoothly and fluidly. When some parts get sticky or rigid, those joints no longer send their fair share of proprioceptive signals to the brain—the same signals that help us recover to a resting state after being triggered into the fight-or-flight response.

At home, you can turn down your stress response and increase proprioception with exercise that moves as many joints as possible. You can also try walking barefoot in the grass or sand to get extra joint signals from your feet.

The Gift of Chiropractic

If any places are sticky and/or painful to move, ask your chiropractor to take a look at them. A chiropractor can identify where your spine and body is stuck and then deliver a series of specific adjustments to enhance motion. Chiropractors are excellent at identifying subluxations and other sources of rigidity and tension, and can be of tremendous aid in helping to rebalance the nervous system’s proprioceptive function.

Great Life Chiropractors, Drs Gus and Jacqueline Tsiapalis and their team provide corrective chiropractic care for subluxations for building resilience in the nervous system’s proprioceptive function.

This way, your joints stop transmitting their alarm signals and become available for proprioceptive activity with the brain. When joints have been stuck in a distorted movement pattern for a long time, it may take some repetition to retrain those old patterns, so you’ll want to check with your chiropractor for specific recommendations tailored to your body and lifestyle.

Regular chiropractic care is an essential part of establishing and maintaining healthy proprioception. Each adjustment not only works to restore normal movement patterns, but it also bombards the brain with lots of healthy proprioceptive input. It feels great in the moment, and over time can help rebuild resilience to all kinds of stressors, whether they be physical, chemical, or emotional.

Resource: Sardonicus, Satya “Building Resilience in a Fight or Flight World” Pathways to Family Wellness, Issue 58

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