Think about it – your heart is designed to function continuously under varying degrees of stress. It’s designed to last for a lifetime and handle many different situations. Your heart speeds up when you are in the midst of an argument and slows down when you’re enjoying a sunset. Your heartbeat reflects your body’s optimal, physical response to stress. (Before you read any further, you need to read last week’s blog to familiarize yourself with the two types of stress.)
Below: a single heartbeat shows the phases for a Type One stress response:
- Phase 1 – displays your body’s normal resting heart rate, breathing pattern and other vital signs.
- Phase 2 – displays your body’s initial response to a challenge. A rapid increase in heart rate, breathing, muscle tension and other vital signs occurs during the upward slope of phase 2. This is the visual of the fight-or-flight response, your body’s method of preparing to defend itself or run away from an immediate threat.
- Phase 3 – shows what occurs after the challenge has been met. Your body starts to relax, and all vital signs begin to return to normal.
- Phase 4 – your body’s vital signs actually dip below their normal level to compensate for the extra demands placed on your body during Phase 2. This is called rebound.
- Phase 5 – your body returns to its normal resting state.
To illustrate the five phases of Type One stress,
I will apply this process to a common situation – a near collision in traffic:
- Phase 1: You’re driving on the freeway/highway.
- Phase 2: As a car begins to move into your lane, you become alert and focused. Your diaphragm becomes tight so you begin to hyperventilate to help get as much oxygen to your brain as possible.
- Phase 3: Instinctively avoiding the collision, you take a deep breath or give a sigh of relief, releasing the tension in your diaphragm.
- Phase 4: You feel shaky, jittery, and/or a bit disoriented. These feelings are the result of your muscles becoming relaxed and/or your heart rate and blood pressure dropping below normal to compensate for their increased level of activity during your near miss.
- Phase 5: You return to normal and continue driving on the freeway/highway.
Next Tuesday (April 17th), I’ll be talking about Stress:
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (part two) and how your body responds to Type Two stress.
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