By JULIE LAFRANZO
As you may have guessed, the sensation of having butterflies in your stomach is not actually bugs in your stomach. There is a scientific meaning behind it and it starts with something called your fight-or-flight response.
This response is what you get when you are scared or frightened or uncomfortable with something and you choose to either fight or run away from it. Dr. John Grohol, the founder & CEO of Psych Central, stated in an article that this response existed very early on in the evolution of humans and occurs to ready the body to a perceived threat in our environment.
The reason you get these butterflies scientifically is that when you go into the fight-or-flight response, there is an adrenaline rush in your brain that causes extra blood flow to areas where it needs it, like your legs to run away. But, if one part of your body is getting more blood flow, then another needs to be getting less blood flow and so your body will send less blood to your stomach to compensate.
The nerves in your stomach can sense that loss of blood flow due to the loss of oxygen (because blood carries oxygen throughout your body) and those nerves could be what is causing the butterfly feeling in your stomach because of the signals those nerves are now sending out.
Kassadie Mink, President of Crawford Residence Hall, described the feeling as if something is “tapping your stomach.”
“For me, it sometimes feels like I’m going to throw up and you can feel your heart beating really fast,” Mink said.
People feeling like they are going to throw up is actually quite common because of that loss of blood flow. Butterflies are often caused by nerves and being in a situation that is unfamiliar, and so for Mink, she experienced butterflies when she first started as president.
“My first few decisions, I had butterflies because I was afraid I was going to mess it up,” Mink said. “[But] as I’ve become more comfortable in the role that I’m taking, the butterflies start to go away and I know how to handle it.”
Cece Sanchez has a different perspective as a theater major.
“Anytime we open a show it’s just this feeling of ‘oh god, what’s going to happen,’ but the more you do it, the more you get used to it,” Sanchez said. “I try not to let that happen because when you do let go of those nerves, it brings down the quality of the performance. Because, for me, it keeps me on edge and keeps me alert.”
This is a benefit of butterflies for some: keeping you on edge. So for Sanchez, and probably other theater majors, it’s important to have that to focus. For others butterflies can be a disadvantage, because it can make one lose focus if they are comfortable in those meetings and fearing throwing up is not the best in that particular situation. And yet, many get butterflies whether they want them or not.