Momentum Podcast: 388
Fight Or Flight Revisited
by Alex Charfen
You are an evolutionary hunter or huntress, a physiologically sensitive, momentum based being that is highly reactive to constraint.
When we experience constraint of any kind, constraint of the things around us, constraint with what we want to get done, constraint with people around us, sometimes we will flip into fight or flight mode, which feels like we're making progress, but can hold us back more than just about anything else.
As human beings, if we face any sort of threat or attack we can flip into fight or flight mode. As Evolutionary Hunter's, we are more susceptible to fight or flight mode than the average person. If you're stuck in this fight or flight mindset it becomes exponentially more difficult to grow a business, lead a team, and see your future clearly. There is nothing you can do to totally eliminate fight or flight. It is a natural instinct, but, there are ways that you can handle it more effectively. Focus on breathing, nutrition, hydration, and movement. If you put more gas in your tank and take care of yourself properly the physiological reactiveness goes down and that is crucial for people like us who want to push the limits every day.
Full Audio Transcript
Alex: You are an evolutionary hunter or huntress, a physiologically sensitive, momentum based being that is highly reactive to constraint. When we experience constraint of any kind, constraint of the things around us, constraint with what we want to get done, constraint with people around us, sometimes we will flip into fight or flight mode, which feels like we're making progress, but can hold us back more than just about anything else.
This week, my family's in Aspen and we are up at our condo up here. We just skied a couple days ago. We're going skiing today, really excited about it. We've had a really incredible time here and one of the things we do when we come to Aspen because we're a different type of family and we're a homeschooling family is we always stop by Explore Booksellers, the bookstore here in Austin, at least once. My kids can spend three or four hours at Explore. It's a really well curated, small bookstore with really helpful staff that are just absolutely amazing and when I go there, I usually end up buying at least one book. My family's a little different than a lot of people I think.
Wherever we go, we end up in a bookstore and whenever we travel, we end up bringing books home and I'm pretty sure probably 40% of the rooms in our house have bookstores built into them so that we can put books on the wall because we would be buried in them and this week, I bought a book by Daniel Amon, a doctor that I know, somebody that I respect a ton who we've actually been in a membership together with. I've had a chance to talk to him, an incredibly brilliant psychiatrist who is ... or a psychologist. I think one or the other. I can't remember now which Daniel is. But it's also an MD. So I guess that would be a psychiatrist. Yeah.
But he's just an absolutely amazing human being and he wrote a book called Feel Better Fast and Make It Last and when I picked it up, I flipped it open and it opened right to a graphic that made me buy the book and, one, because I know Daniel and I know it's gonna be awesome, but also because he just laid out the fight or flight response so well here and so here's what happens to us as human beings. If we have any type of a threat or an attack, we can flip into fight or flight mode and here's my theory and again, this is just a theory on the evolutionary hunter is that we as EPTs, as evolutionary hunters, as those who are constantly pushing the world forward, we are more susceptible to getting into fight or flight. We are more susceptible to being reactive, where evolutionary hunters, we should be programmed that way. We should be evolutionarily programmed to be reactive, to get out of bad situations, to fight or run away from things that are going to harm us. Now here's the challenge.
The challenge is that for all of us when we get into fight or flight, the consequences are massive. Let me share this with you. Let me just share the equation and I'm looking at a diagram here. But I'm gonna explain it to you. So here's what happens in the fight or flight response, for those of you who don't know it. You'll know when I describe it how it feels. You experience a threat, an attack, a harmful event, a threat to survival. Now let's be real. This is what the diagram says. But we can also get into fight or flight because we see a bad comment on Facebook. We get a letter from the IRS. We have a fight with our child, our spouse, we have a challenging day coming into an office or an event. Anything like that can be a perceived threat, a perceived attack that can get us into fight or flight and what happens is your brain processes the signals, beginning first in the amygdala and then in the hypothalamus and your body releases what is called Adrenocorticotropic hormone. Try saying that a whole bunch of times.
ACTH is the abbreviation and what happens is when ACTH is released by the brain, two things happen. One, cortisol is released and two, adrenaline is released and so immediately, your body starts secreting cortisol and adrenaline and here's what happens with the physical effects and I'm gonna run through these quickly. But I want you to just start thinking about these. So when you're in fight or flight response, your heart beats faster. So let's think about, as entrepreneurs, how many of us are in extended fight or flight response right now? How many of us have had stress in our business over a long period of time? How many of us have had stress in our personal lives over a long period of time? How many of us are "working through issues" we have, but really just living through issues we have and not making them go away, like being out of shape and not feeling as vital as we want to feel and not feeling as energetic as we want to feel?
All of those things, in my belief, can flip us into fight or flight because anywhere we can put gas in the tank is gonna make things better. So now your heart beats faster and harder. Well, over an extended period of time, that could lead to heart disease, heart issues. Your bladder actually relaxes when you're in fight or flight. Well, what happens if you stay in an extended fight or flight and your bladder just relaxes? I mean, human beings start dealing with incontinence issues and challenges with using the restrooms and prostate issues and all kinds of other issues with the urinary tract. Your pupils dilate for better tunnel vision. But here's the offset to the pupils dilation when you're in fight or flight. Your pupils dilate. But you lose peripheral vision. Think of that. As an entrepreneur, seeing side to side and understanding what's going on, I mean, that's in the real world. But when we look at that as expand beyond just losing your peripheral vision, you also stop seeing options. You also stop seeing the things around you. Gentlemen, erections are inhibited.
It's crazy how many people today have to take a pill to engage in intimacy with their partner and how many men have to take a pill. But when you look at, if you're in an extended fight or flight and erections are inhibited over and over and over again, eventually, the equipment just doesn't work and you have to supplement with chemicals to make the body work like it should. Your air passages open and shallow breathing increases. So your air passages open. Artificially, they expand and then ... or not artificially, naturally. It's a natural process. But if you're not in a real danger, you now have expanded air passages and shallow breathing. So that can actually make your lung capacity come down. Your blood pressure increases. Tons of consequences to blood pressure. The production of tears and saliva decreases. So you get dry eyes and saliva is the first step in digesting food. So if you don't have saliva, you're not gonna digest food properly. So check this out, the next one. Your digestion actually slows when you are in fight or flight. So you stop producing saliva and your digestion slows.
We have an epidemic of IBS, Crohn's, colitis, stomach issues, digestive issues, especially in the entrepreneurial world. I mean, I can't tell you how many of my clients deal with these things. My wife has Crohn's and I've dealt with digestive and stomach issues and when you look at where those may be coming from, and again, this is my theory, but think about it. If you're in an extended fight or flight, if you're running your body redline, if you are pushing yourself really hard, if you are not taking time for yourself, both the production of tears and saliva decreases and your digestion slows. I'm gonna go through a few more of these and then I'm gonna give you the shortest hacks, the shortest steps. What is the one thing you can do in breathing, hydration, nutrition and movement to get out of fight or flight and stay out of fight or flight? I'm gonna make it easy for you this time. These are gonna be the, just cut to the chase. What is it that I give people to get the biggest leverage out of fight or flight in each of those categories, breathing, hydration, nutrition, movement?
More on that in a second so check this out. In addition to your digestion slowing down, your hearing diminishes. Think about that. As a leader, as a CEO, as an entrepreneurial personality type out changing the world, your hearing diminishes. So that means you're gonna hear less of what's going on around you. You're going to process less about what's going on around you and you're literally going to be less involved in the conversations, the world around you because your hearing actually diminishes. Your muscles become tense. Trembling may occur. Muscles around hair follicles constrict, causing goosebumps. So think about that. You're in fight or flight. If you're in fight or flight for an extended period of time, your muscles become tense. It's almost 100% of my clients when I ask them, "Hey, do you carry body tension?" They say, "Absolutely, yes," and when I start asking where, they start naming the muscles that would be tense if you were in a fighter stance, like shoulders, mid-back, low back, hamstrings, calves. If you think about what it takes to get into a fighting stance, those are the muscles that get tight.
So in addition to the muscles becoming tense, your blood vessels shunt blood to the upper arms and upper legs, fight or flee, and then away from hands and feet, which get colder. So your circulation is affected. I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs I've worked with who tell me things like, "My hands are always cold. My feet are always cold." I've actually worked with entrepreneurs who get blue fingernails during the day because they're working so hard that they get into fight or flight and the blood literally stops going to their hands. The veins in your skin constrict. Colder hand and feet are one of the results and it sends more blood to the major muscle groups so that you can fight or flight causing this chill that sometimes is associated with fear. So as you go into fight or flight, you might feel cold. So if you feel yourself dropping body temperature during the day, something might be happening here. Your blood sugar level increases for energy. But what happens over a long period of time if your body is constantly pushing up your blood sugar? That's called diabetes or other blood sugar issues.
Your brain has trouble focusing on small tasks. This is an actual result of fight or flight. Your brain has trouble focusing on small tasks. It's thinking only of dealing with the threat. So as an entrepreneur who needs all of your faculties to be able to grow a business, one of the hardest things any human being every commits to doing in their lifetimes, it's also one of the most spiritually awakening. Don't get me wrong. I don't want you to stop. But just think. If you're trying to do one of the hardest things human beings do and your brain has trouble focusing on small tasks and it only thinks of dealing with one threat and as an entrepreneur, if there's enough of an attack, a harmful threat or something that feels like it simulates an attack in your life and you get into fight or flight, you literally have trouble focusing on the tasks that are gonna help you move forward and then here's the last one and this is big, really big. The immune system shuts down.
It's frightening how many of my clients and how many of the people that I work with are dealing with autoimmune issues up to and including my wife and when you look at how devastating autoimmune issues can be, they can shut down everything that you're doing and when you think about being in fight or flight for a protracted long period of time and your immune system is shutting down when you're in fight or flight, it gets a short boost and then it shuts down. Well, couldn't that be causing, again, the epidemic proportion of people who have immune issues or autoimmune issues today? When you look at a lot of the diseases that have hockey stick grown in the past 20 to 50 years, a lot of those diseases are an exact reaction to fight or flight. Here's why. In the wild, as evolutionary hunters, we would go into fight or flight mode for a period of time. But in the wild as evolutionary hunters, even the wooly mammoth went to sleep and left us alone.
But today, as entrepreneurs with phones and email and social media and people have access to us and everything coming at us, we can't put the wooly mammoth to sleep anymore and that doesn't mean that I want you to unplug from the world and stop growing your business. In fact, the absolute opposite is true. I want you to grow an empire. I want you to grow a business as big as you possibly can. I want you to have a massive team and make the incredible impact you've always known you should. However, if you're in fight or flight, everything gets exponentially more difficult. It gets exponentially more difficult to see the future, to lead a team, to be present, to be aware, to do the things that we all know we need to do in order to grow our businesses. So there's four areas that I coach in to put more gas in the tank. Now here's what I want you to know about fight or flight.
I don't think that there's any possible way or any coaching or any practice that you're going to enter into that will completely eliminate you getting into fight or flight as an entrepreneur for the rest of your career, period. So let's just start the bar pretty low because as entrepreneurs, my belief is we are much closer to that fight or flight trigger than the rest of the world and so I don't think there's any way that we're gonna say, "Hey, it's never gonna happen again." So let's put that on the table. Let's get it out of the way. But what I do want to have happen is when you do triggered into fight or flight, I want it to be for a shorter period of time. I want you to be able to get yourself out of it. I want the bar, the trigger for fight or flight to be much higher than it is today because here's what happens.
If you look at our bodies and our organisms as a holistic unit, if it's not separating brain and body, if our bodies are reactive, if we're not taking care of ourselves, then that trigger for fight or flight is much closer and it's much easier to flip that switch and release the adrenocorticotropic hormone. Again, say that 10 times fast. But what I want to do is I want to make that trigger much, much harder to flip and here's what I know after over 20 years of working with entrepreneurs is that if we put more gas in the tank, if we take care of ourselves physiologically, that physiological reactivity goes down and we're not triggered into fight or flight as easily and that is crucial for people like us who want to push limits, make new things happen, put ourselves in stressful situations, grow teams, push our boundaries and consistently and constantly for the rest of our lives be in transition of some kind because remember, the commitment to being an entrepreneur is a commitment to being in transition for the rest of your life if you want to be successful.
Things will not be the same for you. You will constantly be evolving and changing and growing in a new direction. So when it comes to these four things, breathing, hydration, nutrition and movement, here are my easiest and fastest hacks to get you out of fight or flight, the easiest practices. Let's go to breathing. I know that the world talks today about meditation and guided visualization and all kinds of other things and by the way, I'm a huge proponent of those things. I love to use Hemi-Sync. I download them from iTunes, from the Monroe Institute. They're absolutely amazing. When you have 20 or 30 or 45 or an hour, you can do a Hemi-Sync and it will put you into a relaxed state like crazy. I love using the Muse headset. Three minutes in the morning to five minutes in the morning with the Muse. It just completely resets my day and I have feedback on whether I'm actually meditating well or not or what type of awareness, what type of presence I have that day. But here's the easiest thing to do. If you feel yourself getting reactive, going into fight or flight, just breathe.
Breathe in a very specific way. Breathe in and out only through your nose because what we want to do is balance both the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your body. When you breathe in through your nose, you actually release nitric oxide, which also helps calm the nervous system, increases awareness and that's the only way you can get it from your body is breathing in through the nose. So we're gonna breathe in and out through our nose, seven seconds in and seven seconds out and I want you to know something. If you're in fight or flight, you might not be able to get to seven seconds the first time you breathe in.
But sit in your chair or stand or lay down and breathe in and out until you can consistently and comfortably go seven seconds in, seven seconds out and study after study has shown that the seven second in, seven second out nasal breathing is the fastest way to calm the nervous system, balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, release nitric oxide, only if you're breathing in and out through your nose and calm the entire human organism and put you into a place where you can increase your presence and awareness and get fully oxygenated. So that's the easiest thing. Breathe seven seconds in, seven seconds out. When it comes to hydration, this one's easy too. We want to be fully hydrated. But if you feel like you slipped into fight or flight, if you feel reactive, if you've reacted with your kids or your spouse, hyper hydrate immediately. 16 ounces or more of water, one, it's gonna calm the entire body. Two, it increases your metabolism 30 to 50%.
But it doesn't accelerate all of the chemicals in the body, all of the hormones in the body. It will actually calm things down because when you're in fight or flight response, you can't drink water. Evolutionarily, you wouldn't have stopped to drink water. So drinking that water, that 16 ounces or more can actually kick your body out of fight or flight and that's hydration. Then if you haven't yet, go to getthirstynow.com. Take our 10 day natural thirst challenge. It will change your life. We've had people who have gotten hydrated lost weight, cleared brain fog, felt better about what they were doing, creating momentum in all areas of their life. The next area is nutrition. You want the easiest thing to do with nutrition? Just start eating a whole foods diet. Eliminate processed foods from your diet. I know that that sounds hard. But it really isn't. Cadey and I are on vacation in Aspen right now. We are on a whole 30 cleanse right now. We do them all the time. Sometimes, we do use some gluten free or some paleo processed foods.
But when we feel like we want to get more momentum in our lives, when we want more presence for our business, when we want more energy, we do a whole foods diet and just revert to 100% whole foods, no processed foods and you will see everything in your business and your life change and then the last one, this one's a big one, movement. What can you do for movement that will be good for your body and knock you out of fight or flight? Well, here is the single most progressive practice that I have found in anything that I've tried and I've tried hundreds of different, maybe thousands of different practices. Getting up in the morning and going for a 20 minute walk will change everything in your life and this has been theory forever.
But now, there has been so much research around what walking does to the human body, especially in the morning that it's undeniable now, that if you go out and you walk in the morning for 20 minutes, especially if you can use some functional shoes, like maybe Vibram FiveFingers or something with a very thin sole so you can feel the ground, stimulate your feet, stimulate the body, that walking for 20 minutes calms the nervous system, increases your circulation, opens the lungs and increases lung capacity, calms the entire body, makes you feel more present and more aware and I have had entrepreneurs who have started working with me, have adopted the 20 minute primal walk in the morning and this is no electronics, just you walking, breathing in and out through your nose at a brisk pace with functional shoes, hopefully not on flat ground so that you can get that stimulation up through your body and through the soles of your feet and into your lower body and the morning walk, I've had entrepreneurs who have relieved back pain and shoulder pain completely after going to specialist after specialist.
Just doing the morning walk has taken care of it for them. I've had clients who have started doing the morning walk and they're less reactive. I've had client who have started doing the morning walk and just the morning walk has made them feel so much better that they've started eating better, drinking better, getting more hydrated. The morning walk is a catalyst to feel better. But it also is incredible in what it does for the body, increases the right type of circulation, calms down a fight or flight response, especially if you're breathing in and out through your nose, increases presence, increases awareness, connects mind and body. The morning walk will change everything for you and so I don't want you to be in fight or flight. I don't want you to have all of the consequences of adrenocorticotropic hormone being released into your body and having cortisol released and adrenaline released and having all of that stress response that takes you out of the entrepreneurial game. I want you as present and aware as possible. I want you to know exactly what's going on in your business and in your life.
The fastest way to do it is to stay out of fight or flight. So breathing seven in and seven out. Hydration, hyper hydrate and stay hydrated all day. Nutrition, eat whole foods and then movement, if you're not doing a morning walk yet, it may be one of the biggest shortcuts to entrepreneurial success. Being an entrepreneur is one of the greatest privileges that there is today. Being able to make your own path to go out and make your own impact contribution is absolutely incredible. However, when we let the stress of what we do take over, when we let cortisol and adrenaline run our lives, we run on a short fuse. We're highly reactive and most importantly, we are giving up opportunity every day. I want you to take it back. If you're ready to be more present, more aware, if you want to calm the chaos and get out of fight or flight and stay out of fight or flight so that you can grow your business and live a more impactful life, go to momentummasterclass.com. Momentum Masterclass is a course that does exactly this.
It was written for entrepreneurs who are in transition, which is all of us and who are looking to increase their momentum, do more with their lives, create a bigger impact without going into fight or flight and staying healthy, present and aware along the way. It includes our momentum planning system and much, much more. If you go to momentummasterclass.com, you can watch a short video on exactly what is in the course and if you're ready to create physiological, cognitive and chemical momentum, if you want to feel better, think faster and feel that chemical rush of being in momentum every single day, go to momentummasterclass.com.
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