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PANIC MODE! The Flight, Fight, or Freeze Response

When faced with danger, our bodies instinctively respond in remarkable ways. The “flight, fight, or freeze” response is a primal survival mechanism deeply embedded in our biology and parts of our brain. When confronted with a threatening situation, our animal bodies have three primary responses: to flee from danger, confront it head-on, or become immobilised like a deer caught in headlights.

The Evolutionary Roots: Survival of the Fittest

The flight, fight, or freeze response is an ancient survival mechanism that has served our ancestors well throughout human evolution. In the face of predators or life-threatening situations, our bodies needed a rapid and automatic response to ensure survival. The response is triggered by the brain’s amygdala, which acts like an internal alarm system, sending signals to prepare the body for action.

We Have More than One Brain

Yes in fact this is true! While we commonly refer to the brain as a single entity, it actually consists of multiple specialised areas, each responsible for distinct functions. These brain regions communicate and collaborate to process information, control bodily functions, regulate emotions, and perform various cognitive tasks.

The flight, fight, or freeze response involves different parts of the brain working together. The amygdala acts as an alarm, the hypothalamus controls bodily functions, and the prefrontal cortex assesses the threat. These brain regions collaborate to help us respond to potential dangers and ensure our survival.

The Physiology of Response: Navigating Danger

When the flight, fight, or freeze response is activated, a series of physiological changes occur in the body. The release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol increases heart rate, sharpens focus, and mobilises energy reserves. This heightened state of arousal readies us to either run from danger, confront it with force, or remain still to avoid detection.

Modern-Day Impact: Coping with Stressors

While our lives today are vastly different from those of our ancestors, the flight, fight, or freeze response remains an integral part of our biology. In modern times, this response is triggered not only by physical threats but also by emotional stressors, such as work pressure, relationship challenges, or financial worries. Consequently, the body’s natural response to perceived threats can lead to chronic stress and its associated health implications.

REMEMBER! It may not be the ‘logical’ part of your brain thats in control when you are panicking. So don’t yourself harshly.. Its highly likely to be the part of your brain responsible for protecting you from danger! It’s natural.

Managing the Response: Finding Balance

While the flight, fight, or freeze response is a critical survival tool, it is essential to manage its activation in our daily lives. Here are some practical ways to find balance:

  • Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness can help you become aware of your body’s stress response and learn to regulate it.
  • Deep Breathing: Engage in deep breathing exercises to activate the body’s relaxation response, calming your nervous system.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help burn off excess stress hormones and promote overall well-being.
  • Emotional Awareness: Cultivate emotional intelligence to recognise and express emotions effectively, reducing emotional stressors.
  • Time Management: Organise your schedule to avoid excessive stress and allow time for relaxation and self-care.
  • Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for support during challenging times.

Conclusion: Embracing Our Survival Mechanism

The flight, fight, or freeze response is an awe-inspiring testament to the brilliance of our human animal biology. While it once protected our ancestors from physical threats, it continues to shape our responses to the challenges of modern life. By understanding and managing this primal survival mechanism, we can harness its power for our well-being. Let us embrace our innate ability to navigate danger, finding strength and resilience as we journey through life’s adventures.

Lead Photo by Dominic Howlett on Unsplash