There are two levels of shock. The first level of shock is one that affects our sympathetic nervous system. The second level affects our parasympathetic system.
Initially, when we experience shock we have the fight-or-flight response.
Have you ever heard a sudden loud sound like an unexpected door slam that made you jump? Then you have experienced sympathetic shock. You go into the fight-or-flight response, and the body immediately gets ready to deal with the threat causing you to:
- Suddenly pause and intensely listen (to focus on the threat so you know where and when you need to move)
- Initially hold your breath as you listen and then breathe deeper and faster
- Increase your heartbeat and respiration to oxygenate and energize the body to be ready to fight or flee (can feel like panic)
- Tense your muscles (getting ready to move your body)
- Dilate the pupils and open the eyes (to take in more information)
- Move blood flow to the center of the body (so if the extremities are hurt you won’t bleed out)
- Have cheeks flush with the increased blood flow
If fight or flight is deemed impossible, then parasympathetic shock occurs. Your system decides that the best move is to play dead and hope you are not noticed so that you can survive. Your system slows down and quiets itself as much as possible.
The following can be signs of parasympathetic shock:
- Slow respiration or holding your breath periodically, which lowers oxygenation and decreases blood flow. This can lead to:
- Pale face
- Cold hands and feet
- Poor digestion
- Interference with continued clear thinking until the threat passes
- Heart palpitations (a heartbeat that ranges from often unnoticed skipped beats or accelerated rate often accompanied by dizziness or difficulty in breathing)
- Muscle weakness—poor muscle tone
- Difficulty in focusing
- Feeling as if you are not connected to your body or you are watching it or the room from a distance
- Adrenals often becoming overtaxed and depleted with long-held shock
- Exercise making you feel more tired instead of better
- Slowly and progressively feeling more tired without a specific cause
Stress occurs when shock continues on some level without recovery. Our system is never allowed to totally let down and rest—and this may include sleep time. So we slowly deplete our system until we get sick.
It’s important to work with someone to clear shock from your system, especially parasympathetic shock.