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Understanding the “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” Response and Tackling Stress Effectively


In the face of potential threats, our brains instinctively activate a “fight, flight, or freeze” response, gearing the body to tackle danger. While this response is crucial for survival, it can sometimes be overused, leading to stress that takes a toll on both the body and mind.

Individuals manifest stress in diverse ways. One might find themselves restlessly scrolling through social media at night, while another may experience forgetfulness and irritability. Recognizing the effects of the “fight, flight, or freeze” response is essential in managing stress effectively.

Healthcare providers gauge stress through changes in health, energy, behavior, and mood. Self-reported feelings and symptom awareness play a key role in identifying stress causes. Timing and duration of symptoms can pinpoint stress triggers or reveal chronic emotional distress.

Stress, a normal part of life, becomes problematic when the “fight, flight, or freeze” response persists. The impact spans psychological, physical, behavioral, and interpersonal domains.

Anxiety and depression may arise from constant worry or feelings of hopelessness. Sleep, concentration, and memory can suffer due to an overload of anxious thoughts.

The release of cortisol during the stress response can lead to a rapid heart rate, bursts of energy, but also undesirable effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, and exacerbation of chronic health conditions.

Stress prompts cravings for activities that offer escape and relaxation. Unfortunately, these often involve unhealthy choices such as increased alcohol or drug intake, consuming high-carb foods, and prolonged social media use.

Stress may result in heightened irritability, anger, or increased dependence on others for reassurance. Patience wears thin, affecting interpersonal relationships.

Recognizing that the brain’s protective instincts can resist relaxation, it’s crucial to employ healthy stress-relief strategies.

1. Buy Yourself Time and Space:
Introduce pauses between activities to allow your brain to adjust. Whether it’s a moment of deep breathing, a short break, or delegating tasks, creating space helps dissipate stress.

2. Experiment with Soothing Techniques:
Gentle exercises, Epsom salt baths, deep breathing, guided meditations, or engaging in mindless activities like coloring can effectively reduce stress. Keep a list of what works for you.

3. Reduce Stress Amplifiers:
Limiting caffeine, alcohol, high-sugar foods, and excessive social media use, though tempting in the short term, proves detrimental in the long run, leading to increased anxiety and poor sleep quality.

Understanding the dynamics of stress and adopting healthy coping mechanisms is paramount for maintaining overall well-being. Reference from

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