There are inward and outward signs of this activity. Inwardly, the signs are the jittery, hypersensitive feeling signaling you are poised for action. Due to the lack of blood to the digestive system, you may get butterflies or a sick feeling. Your heart races with blood leaving the skin so you get the feeling of a high core temperature and cool skin (that is, you feel clammy). Your breathing is elevated, but constricted, so your heart and lungs race. This increased metabolism—as much as 100 percent—results in you feeling flushed and hot. Your focus becomes narrow and your hearing directed to the target. You can hear your heartbeat. Your mind recedes into the primitive state and emotions come to the fore. This explains why so many people cry when confronted and angry. Don’t perceive this as weak or fragile.
Outwardly, there are noticeable signs as well:
The body’s decision to take blood from the skin results in a pallid complexion.
Being part of the digestive system, the mucosa of the lips and mouth have dramatically reduced blood flow; lips and other mucosa shrink, resulting in pale thin lips and drooping lower eye lids.
The increased heart rate may show in the pounding of the chest or rise and fall of the shoulders.
Hands may shake in response to increased metabolism.
Increased need for air results in flared nostrils and audible breathing.
The eyes have focused on the cause of the stress and this can result in a squint or wide-open eyes, depending on the situation.
The brow clinches and draws downward. Lips tighten to a thin colorless line.
Shoulders draw higher in preparation for defense or escape.
The body’s increased need for glucose can start to scavenge from the mucosa and leave white residue in the corners of the mouth.
Elbows go close to the ribs.
Palms turn down and the hands close to form fists. In extreme terror this can go even further, resulting in the elbows drawing to the ribs and the hands moving to protect the face, in a reflexive effort to protect the area around the vital organs—oddly enough, leaving the top of the head unprotected.
The increased need for cooling causes the body to sweat, and in this sweat are massive amounts of by-products; the fight-or-flight body odor is noticeable.
Ultimately, the person collapses.