There are many reasons that individuals choose to learn about mindfulness. Getting stuck in stress reactivity is one of them. Stress reactivity is defined as the automatic reactions triggered, largely out of unawareness, when we experience demands. These reactions are made up of physical sensations in the body, cognitions and emotions.
Stress reactivity involves a stimulation of an alarm reaction in our body. This occurs through the autonomic nervous system and is referred to as fight or flight. This reaction involves the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. Enabled by the autonomic nervous system, energy is released into your body to help you get ready for the perceived demands.
Why do we get stuck? We get stuck because we are not aware or we do not take a look at our habits and conditioning that emerge in a stressful situation. As a result potential stressors including everything from environmental, health, financial, political, and emotional, to name just a few, can show up in our lives and be perceived as threatening. It is not uncommon for this appraisal to happen very quickly and we may not be fully aware of this happening. Getting stuck in stress reactivity involves the chronic activation of this mobilization of energy designed to help us fight or flee.
Chronic arousal in this way can be recognized in many different symptoms including chronic muscle tension, elevated heart rate, and the emergence of strong emotions like anger and fear.
The key factor in learning to handle stress reactivity is to learn to become conscious of these reactions through awareness. Awareness is the first step in learning to get control of this automaticity. Without conscious awareness, you become vulnerable to this ongoing stimulation which, in the long run, can have profound implications on your health and well-being.