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November 1, 2021

Understanding How Your Body Reacts Under Stress

We are all familiar with the physical sensations that accompany a high stress situation: the feeling of adrenaline, heart pounding, sweating, possible disorientation.

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We are all familiar with the physical sensations that accompany a high stress situation: the feeling of adrenaline, heart pounding, sweating, possible disorientation. For security officers and law enforcement, this feeling is one that will be experienced quite frequently, which is why it is important to understand it and learn how to use it to your advantage rather than be overcome by it. This article will break down what happens to us internally when we’re under stress, and what we can do to harness it.

Fight or Flight

Fight or flight is a term coined by psychologists to explain our subconscious reaction to something potentially dangerous. For most civilians, the instinct to flee from something that could hard them is generally beneficial, but for law enforcement officers and security guards, this feeling often needs to be overcome so that the threat can be met and dealt with. One of the best ways to desensitize yourself to this fear is to run drills and emphasize real-life scenarios during training

However, no matter how much you train, our bodies are wired to respond to danger. When you find yourself facing a dangerous perpetrator, or deescalating a tense situation, you will most likely still feel the effects of a stress response. These effects can include but are not limited to:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

You will feel your heart begin to pound as adrenaline rushes through your body. You may feel temporarily faster or stronger than normal.

  • Sudden chill or cold sweat

This is due to a change in blood flow, and is completely normal.

  • Reduced sensitivity to pain

Under stress, our sympathetic nervous system takes charge to prepare our bodies for a possible impact. This means that pain can feel temporarily dulled, however, after your stress levels have evened out, the sensation of pain will return to normal.

  • Trembling or slight shaking

This is a result of adrenaline and other hormones racing through you, causing your reflexes to be faster, but also resulting a feeling of jumpiness.

  • Dilated pupils

Under stress, our pupils dilate to allow in more light, so that we are able to see things better.

Harnessing Our Stress

Reading the above list, you probably already see how some of the effects of stress can be beneficial in dangerous situation. The key, however, is learning to keep yourself calm enough to make rational decisions while still using your heightened senses. If stress is allowed to overwhelm us, we can make impulsive judgments, possibly hurting ourselves or others. But a slight internal moment where we remind ourselves to breath and fall back on the instincts built up through training can make all the difference.

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