14th April 2021
by HealthyMe Digital

What is the fight-or-flight response?

The fight-or-flight response is one of the tools your body uses to protect you from danger.

When you feel threatened, the fight-or-flight response is automatically triggered, and several physiological changes prepare you to either confront or flee from the threat.

How is the fight-or-flight response triggered?

The fight-or-flight response can be triggered during significant disruptive change which threatens your emotional well-being. An example is, the fear you feel before giving a presentation. In these cases, the symptoms often do more harm than good.  Being in flight mode, for example, might help you escape from a lion, tiger or bear, but won’t help you feel cool and collected during a presentation. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know the difference between the stress of escaping from a lion and the stress of giving a presentation.

What feelings and emotions occur during fight-or-flight?

  • Increased heart rate

  • Racing thoughts

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Butterflies in your stomach

  • Rapid, shallow breathing

  • Sweating

  • Shaking

  • Tense muscles

Is the fight-or-flight response bad?

Everyone will experience the fight-or-flight response at times, to varying degrees. Usually, it’s natural and healthy. However, when the fight-or-flight response leads to excessive anger, anxiety, prolonged stress, or other problems, it might be time to intervene.

How do you manage a fight-or-flight response?

The fight-or-flight response is normal and one you cannot always control.  Even though it is an automatic process, you can learn to control your fight-or-flight responses by managing your mental wellbeing and coping skills.

Reflect on how you react in stressful situations

Are you able to manage the situation calmly? Or do you start to avoid the situation or become defensive?

  • Think of a recent time you felt stressed, for example, an argument with a friend/family member or the pressure of a work deadline.

  • Write down how you felt – physically and emotionally.

  • What was the outcome?

  • What would you do differently next time?

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