Fight or Flight.
We’ve all heard this term—and I’m guessing as soon as you read it, you immediately identified with one over the other.
Our fight-or-flight reactions to stress go way back to the earliest days of humanity, when predators were a real and constant threat for every human on the Earth. And so biological instincts offered us our best chance at survival: We knew we either had to fight the predator to survive, or run like hell without looking back!
But today, the biggest threat to our health and happiness isn’t typically a wild animal or some other real and present danger to our lives. Instead, it’s stress that’s consuming us—so much so that the World Health Organization has named it the health epidemic of the 21st century.
Before you take note of your own stress and decide it’s all hopeless, let me share something pretty powerful with you.
You can change the course of your reaction to stress in just 90 seconds.
In a concept simply defined as the “90-second rule,” neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor says that when we’re hit with a stressful situation—regardless of what it is— we should allow ourselves to observe the surrounding emotions for a full 90 seconds.
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment,” she says, “there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”
“Something happens in the external world, and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body, it takes less than 90 seconds. This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.”
“After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological reaction, over and over again.”
These are the same concepts I talk about mastering with the simple practice of posture, breath and mind. When we allow ourselves to pause and breathe, we create space for that same 90-second emotional download Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor discusses—where we can clearly assess what we’re feeling and allow those emotions to wash over us before we formulate a response.
Consider practicing the 90-second rule this week. When stress hits and you can feel yourself launching into full-on fight or flight mode, go back to the principle of the pause. Inhale. Exhale. And allow yourself to feel the tension in your body ease, without expecting yourself to respond immediately to the situation confronting you.
And if you do commit to practicing the pause this week, I’d love to hear how it goes.
Take good care : )