Wellbeing 101: The Fight or Flight Response

How often do you run away from a Sabre-toothed Tiger?
Hopefully your answer is not too often, however the response your body feels to stress, whether it be from running late to work, managing health issues or an over flowing to-do list is the same response our bodies felt when we were cavemen. This stress response is known as Fight or Flight.

Stress today may look different to the stress of yesterday but our physical response is still the same.

When we go into Fight or Flight mode, also known as Survival Mode, our body goes into overdrive releasing neurotransmitters and hormones to help us overcome the perceived threat and putting less important bodily functions aside for the time being.

Going into Survival Mode isn’t all bad. It increases mental awareness and provides motivation. However, spending excessive time in the stress response can be harmful, leading to physiological and psychological damage including anxiety, depression, digestive issues, infertility, autoimmune disease and more, as the body suppresses the immune system and focuses on survival.

While Fight or Flight is an automatic response, if you often find yourself going into or getting stuck in Survival Mode there are ways you can develop your skills and strategies for dealing with and overcoming stress.

During our busy modern lifestyles, it’s not always possible to fight or flee. When you take challenging phone calls at work or get stuck in traffic, you may have to find a way to deal with it. For this reason it’s common for many to get stuck in the Fight or Flight response, but there is a way out.

6 ways to prevent and manage stress

1. Practice mindfulness – take 3 deep breaths or listen to a guided meditation.
Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve to relax you and help keep you cool, calm and collected.
2. Create your own cave – In our busy modern lifestyles, it’s important to create your own cave and go there when you need a break. Whether you find your cave by singing in the car, watching a documentary, creating in the kitchen or going hiking, your cave is a place to find some peace in your everyday.
3. Reduce chemical stressΒ – avoid harmful ingredients in unhealthy foods, cosmetics, fragrances and cleaning products and make conscious choices in the products you expose you and your family to.
4. Live a healthy, relaxed and balanced lifestyle – ask yourself if you are drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, balancing work and play, positively connecting with others and practicing self-care. If not, it takes just 21 days to form a habit, why not create a new healthy habit?
5. Learn how to manage your stress – learn what your triggers are and how you can prevent unnecessary stress and healthy ways to deal with unavoidable stressful situations.
6. Ask for help – If your stress levels feel unmanageable, professional counsellors are trained in helping you recognise the root cause of your stress and supporting you in making decisions to improve your health and wellbeing.

Please take a moment now to take a deep breathe, maybe create a new cave and just relax…at least you don’t have a Sabre-toothed Tiger chasing you.

Did you find this helpful? How do you manage your stress? Do you know your triggers? What is your favourite way to relax and destress? What does you cave look like?

This post was inspired by an assignment from my second week in my meditation therapy and holistic counseling course. Although I had a basic understanding of the Fight or Flight Response before the assignment the assignment gave me the opportunity to go more in depth and explore cause and effect as well as helping others with dealing with stress. I’m loving the course so far πŸ™‚

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  1. Very good advice. I’ve not had this issue, but I’ve been in very dangerous places a time or two. I went into fight mode quickly. I’m too old now to handle these issues. I’d be in stressed out mode. These are good things to know.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ☺

  2. Great tips! Singing in the car (albeit terribly) is one of my caves. There is something about the vibration singing causes that really reduces stress for me. Television programs is another stress reliever for me. A great show that brings me out of reality for a brief period really helps!

    1. Mine too Val! Haha and I think the science behind the vibration is really interesting! I thought it was so cool that something as fun as singing could stimulate the vagus nerve and pituitary gland which promotes the relaxation response. More reason to sing (albeit terribly) in the car I say πŸ˜›
      Game of Thrones is my Monday night reality break at the moment. I love going for a bay run just before the sun sets too, luckily there’s one not too far from home.

  3. I definitely need to practice managing my stress. I get really stressed out easily because of school, work, and life in general. My favorite thing to do to relax is to sing in the shower. I used to think talking to friends helped, but sometimes that makes me even worse because I’m too stressed out to talk to someone who’s in a good mood haha
    This post came at a really good time! It’s been a crazy year so far, and I really need to calm myself haha

    ~Andrea Tiffany~

  4. A great reminder and very helpful tips, Chelsey! Last year has been especially stressful for me, and I’m noticing the harmful effects on my body now. I am trying hard to maintain a healthy work/life balance. But first, I’d like fully recover from this dreadful cold…

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