Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Therapy Tuesday: 4F's and what I learned about myself at puppy class

Last night in my Canine Communication class, I learned about the dog stoplight. I don't think that's the technical term for it but that's what I'm calling it in order to explain it better. The dog spotlight is split into 3 zones that dogs can be in on a daily basis.
Green Zone: Where happy dogs live
  • They are calm, content, happy.
  • If the get a little stressed, they use calming signals to help
Yellow Zone: Where stressed dogs live
  • use of lots of calming signals
  • starting to use stress signs
Red Zone: Point of No Return
  • Dog will use the 4F's: Fight, Flight, Freeze, Frenzy
Beta is typically in the green zone until something scary comes, then she starts to go to the yellow zone and if we don't do anything about it, she remains there. She won't ever reach the red zone unless something terribly traumatic happens. Let's hope this never happens.

I learned that dogs may have 1 of 4 reactions when they get to the point of no return. The point of no return is when they are already living day-to-day life in very high stress (yellow zone) and something sets them off.

I took a step back and looked at the 4F's. I know this is for dogs, but their form of communication is something we humans could learn from. Just from a stress point of view, I would say I live in the yellow zone daily. I make it to the green zone on the weekends, sometimes, but it has to be almost perfect conditions. It obviously takes a lot for a dog to reach the red zone, but I think humans can reach it much faster. For example, I would say that anxiety attacks occur in the red zone. My two reactions vary from Freeze to Frenzy. I can get super upset and mad and want to kick, scream and yell (this usually occurs in private or if I'm in public, occurs in my head). Or, I can freeze up in a ball on the floor of where I am and cry, shake and hyperventilate until I'm all cried out. When I freeze, my stomach cramps up to the point where I feel I've done 100 situps afterwards. My chest gets tight and I have trouble taking deep breaths. I have very little cognitive function, I can't think straight and I can only force myself to sit down because it's safer.

I believe I live in the yellow zone most days. On top of using my own forms of calming signals, I show very physical signs of stress. Here's an example of what I may look like when I feel overwhelmed:
  • hunched shoulders
  • shoulders raised towards ears
  • short breathing
  • short temper
  • avoid eye contact/social contact/talking (basically become a hermit)
  • shaking hands
  • forgetful
  • balled fists with nails digging into palms
  • dizziness
I don't like doing any of these, but they have become the way my mind tries to deal with stress. When it gets to be more than I can handle, I usually have an anxiety attack.
If you are to look at me at any given time of day, you'd see me showing 3 or more signs of the above list.