One very old or primitive response deeply programmed into our body and nervous system is the Fight or Flight response. It is sometimes referred to as the fight, flight or freeze response. This response, or adaptation, was used primitively for basic survival. It is a survival instinct that is still very much with us now.

Our ancestors had other concerns than we do today. There were bigger worries regarding physical harm. Be it from dangerous predator animals or other rival clans or communities. When encountering a dangerous situation, the body immediately shifts its physiology into what is now known as the fight or flight response. Fight or flight got its name due to the preparation of the body to either fight off an opponent or to flee from it. Punch and kick or run like hell. The possibility of freeze is an adaptation that makes us immobile for a time.

 

Fight or Flight or Freeze: “If I don’t move, it won’t see me.” 

 

The body’s physiology (function) changes immediately during the fight or flight response. We get a heightened sense of perception, our pupils dilate, our blood pressure rises and blood flows away from the intestinal system and into the extremities. The body prepares for physical activity and responsiveness to a threat. In this heightened state, it is not so vital that we digest our breakfast. It is much more important that the arms and legs have enough resources to move quickly.

Our posture also changes in response to fight or flight. We tend to hunch our spine over, pull up our fists and bend our knees. Imagine a boxer in the ring. The body is ready and alert in this position. With this posture we are able to fight and or run at a moment’s notice. If we constantly hold our bodies in this position, it may signal our body that there is a stressful situation or threat. Or otherwise stated, if this is our normal posture, we may have some stress issues to work out.

The fight or flight response was originally intended to be implemented for short bursts of time. This is not so much the case in our modern world. The problem is, we are usually not running from tigers and dinosaurs anymore. Modern-day stressors are constantly bombarding us. Be it from increased traffic on the roads, stressful situations at work or our constant on/constant contact society of the modern internet. Our cortisol levels are high and burnout is a household term.

The freeze response can be seen in funny and cute videos of “fainting goats.” If you haven’t yet seen fainting goats, you need to google this. We get into freeze when too much information comes at us at once or if the threat is too big. Our nervous system holds everything still and then we work out what to do later.

 The animal world has beautiful examples of how stress is naturally resolved. If you have ever observed a dog after a stressful encounter you know what I mean. When animals get stressed, they shake it off. Quite literally. When animals get stressed, after the threat is gone, they usually shake from head to tail and let out a sigh or some sort of noise. This motion, combined with breath and vibration of noise helps the system to reset itself. If we don’t shake it out, we may end up storing stress and tension in our muscular/emotional system. Try it out sometime, see what you think. It might just become your new secret weapon against stress. 😉

Joy-fully Yours,

Linda