Stressful situations or unpleasant feelings (e.g. frustration, fear, anger) trigger what we call the “fight or flight response”.
…in the Stone Age… If our ancestors suddenly encountered a saber-toothed tiger while picking berries, they would have had to be on high alert. A saber-toothed tiger was a deadly threat to humans.
The possibilities to get out of this situation alive were to fight, to run away fast or to climb a tree. All three options required a lot of strength and alertness.
That’s why our ancestors’ bodies learned to release special hormones super fast in threatening situations. These hormones cause the muscles to become tense so that people could fight or flee in the best way possible.
After the human escaped the saber-toothed tiger, the muscles could relax again.
…when you get into a threatening or stressful situation, your body still does exactly the same as the bodies of our ancestors: It engages the “fight or flight response”!
BUT a few things are different today. You don’t have to fight your teacher or run away from a class assignment. Yet, your body becomes tense, and this tension does not subside right away.
In this situation you experience things in the environment (like the saber-toothed tiger!) and in your body (e.g. pain) very intensely. You then perceive tension in your neck or forehead as a headache, for example. When you are relaxed or not really paying attention to your body, you wouldn’t even notice this muscle tension.
…you can’t shut the response off. But you can try to trick it!
There are two things you can do: