Stress and the 3 Fs

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are part of the autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious functions in the body. They work in opposition to each other to regulate the body’s responses to stress and relaxation:

  1. Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): The “fight or flight” response. It prepares the body for physical activity by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and diverting blood flow to the muscles.
  2. Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): The “rest and digest” response. It slows down the body’s functions, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, increasing digestion and elimination, and promoting relaxation and calmness.

These two systems work together to maintain a balance in the body, with the SNS responding to stress and the PNS promoting relaxation.

The “fight, flight, or freeze” response is a biological response to perceived danger or threat, also known as the “acute stress response”. When faced with danger, the body instinctively responds with either:

  1. Fight: preparing to physically defend oneself.
  2. Flight: attempting to escape the danger.
  3. Freeze: immobilising in response to the threat, often in an attempt to blend in with surroundings and avoid detection.


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