Don’t Get Chased By A Bear: Tips For A Successful Startup Lifestyle
Things at work have been extra busy.
You decide to go on a nature hike to get away from it all.
You hear a rustling in the bushes.
You’re alone on the trail, and it’s late. There’s really no other option except to run away. You feel the instant surge within your body, a set of endorphins that are kicking in just in case you need to flee for your life. You pick up your pace to a jog.
You hear another noise, this time louder and closer to you. You hear the thump-thump-thump of something but don’t want to look behind you to check what’s chasing you.
You start to panic, and your jog turns into a full sprint. Soon, all you can hear is the thump-thump-thump of your own heartbeat in your ears.
Do you remember the last time you had a scare that you were being chased by a bear?
Or some other moment that made your body react instinctively? You may have flinched, jumped, or even screamed at something which startled you?
This automatic reaction is part of your body’s way of staying alive, and it is intended to be good for you.
But sometimes it is not.
I just finished Ilchi Lee’s The Solar Body: The Secret to Natural Healing and one particular concept, how our bodies react to stress, really opened my eyes to a new way at being a healthy entrepreneur.
Internally, we have an amazing autonomic nervous system that acts as the main control center to help our bodies deal with stress as well as rejuvenation. There are two primary subsystems in the autonomic nervous system. They are opposite in action and complementary in function. They play a delicate balance to keep us out of danger and free disease.
Understanding how these two systems work is vital for entrepreneurs who lead busy and stressful lives. Being aware of the cogs and gears behind the scenes with your involuntary responses helps you balance working hard and relaxing.
Here is a simple breakdown of the two systems:
The sympathetic nervous system: this subsystem is in charge of emergency responses to unseen dangers and predators, helping us to escape death by accident
The parasympathetic nervous system: this subsystem helps you recharge, rest, and detox; ultimately helping us to avoid death from disease
The most important thing to understand about these two systems is they have a seesaw relationship, interacting and maintaining balance.
As entrepreneurs, we often perceive “non-life threatening” things, such as urgent emails, deadlines, and angry customers, as “life-threatening.” When we get stressed with daily elements of running our own business, the sympathetic system kicks in and takes control of our bodies and brains, and thus, treats the perceived stresses as actual threats.
These things, however, should not be classified as “life-threatening,” but entrepreneurs still trigger the system.
When the perceived crisis situation initiates the sympathetic nervous system, it catalyzes a chain of stress reactions. Blood drains from the internal organs, including the digestive system, and moves to the large muscles of the arms and the legs, triggering the body’s natural flight or fight instincts.
In doing so, we de-prioritize important functions like digestion, detoxification, and healing, which are ultimately meaningless unless we survive the immediate crisis.
When you are in this “fight or flight” mode, the activity of the cerebral cortex (involved in thinking, analysis-synthesis, and judgment) actually slows down. The liver secretes glucose to supply the muscles with energy boosters, raising blood sugar levels. The heartbeat also speeds up and blood pressure increases for a rapid supply of blood flow.
It’s a great system if you are in the jungle and need to run from a bear, but the over-excited activity from sitting at desk in front of a computer stressing over an email can cause more harm than good. Studies have shown that unless physical action releases all this extra energy, the preparation for “flight or flight” can cause damage to cells, tissues, and organs.
In nature, chases typically last a few minutes, because explosive energy created by the stress reaction usually gets used up during the brief flight for life. After a few minutes, you either escape the bear, or get eaten.
For this reason, in nature, the parasympathetic system dominates. Non-stressed situations allow the energy to be focused on detoxification, which supports healthy organisms and their natural state.
The situation, however, is different for people, especially entrepreneurs.
We create stress through memory, thought, and imagination, even when no physical threat exists. Thus, our sympathetic nervous system remains turned on, ready to deal with crises that keep popping up in your inbox. As a result, our parasympathetic nervous system deactivates.
If this continues for too long, our bodies don’t have time to replenish energy, eliminate toxins, and repair damage. The explosive energy generated through the stress reaction turns inward, damaging cells, tissues, and organs.
Meanwhile, the inability to continue supplying the kind of energy required by the stress reaction results in depleted energy, reduced blood circulation, and fatigued nerves, organs, and muscles.
In this sense, we need to allow our bodies to express the natural healing power by not triggering the emergency response system as often, allowing the parasympathetic system to replenish our bodies and keep us healthy.
Not everything that happens in your daily life is like being chased by a bear.
Try to not trigger stress responses and keep one foot on the gas!
What are the things that spark your flight or fight instincts. Comments welcome below.