Fight, Flight or Freeze reflexes

“We often think of fight or flight as the main defensive reaction human beings turn to when faced with a threat. When under stress, we flee or hunker down for the impending battle. While this reaction does characterize a pervasive human tendency, researchers have documented another stress-response system that many people engage in when under threat: a “tend and befriend” response. They seek out other people for support and care.” 

Ethan Kross

This week we are looking at our automatic response to stress, anxiety or trauma.  Many people refer this as the fight/flight response, however there are five responses to this; Fight, Flight, Freeze, Friend or Feign death.  Others describe them as Faint or Fawn and all these responses can be seen in not only the human species but also in animals!  They are to keep us safe from predators and dangerous situations.

This topic is timely, especially given the adverse weather and flooding in the southern states in the past week and these are continuing down our river system.  The impact of the stress may continue for some time, even past the clean up and repair stages.  We all react differently and that depends on our past experiences, the damage and the impact on us individually and collectively.

Sometimes though, our mind and body keep reacting – even though the danger has passed.  This is because our body (and mind) is still sitting in the activated stage, and it hasn’t calmed down.  An example of this is the smoke alarm that we all have in our homes. Most of the time, the smoke alarm alerts us for danger, however, occasionally the smoke alarm detects the toaster.  When this has happened a couple of times, our minds will get us to check the source BEFORE it lets us run outside to safety.  When our body and mind are activated – it often sends out false alarms and we react inappropriately to a situation.   You can learn to reset your automatic response system through mindfulness, grounding and positive talk.  As always, the first step is noticing that you have an issue.  Generally, these will subside after a few weeks – if not, it may be beneficial to seek professional assistance.

Unfortunately, once the automatic response system has been activated – it utilises a lot of energy, so once the fight, flight or freeze has diminished, you will feel exhausted and need to nurture yourself with rest, food and hydration.  Self-care is really essential after any stressful event.

Hoping that you and your family are safe and if the floods or adverse weather has impacted on you, that the clean-up and aftermath goes well.