What Happens During the Flight, Fight or Freeze Response?
When we become threatened, we experience a surge of chemicals designed to allow us to survive through whatever the event is. The physiological effects are increased adrenaline, acceleration of heart and lung action, shaking, dilation of pupils and more. Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is an integral part of our body’s “fight, flight or freeze” response. The fight, flight or freeze response is essentially a state of acute stress. While stress is usually seen as a negative, it is beneficial if we need the surge of chemicals to help us fight, flight or freeze to avoid danger. However, it is only useful in short bursts. Many of us get caught in this perpetual state, never releasing it from our system and returning to normal, or homeostasis.
How Can We Fix This?
Animals in the wilderness shake, tremble, run, or do other physical activities to discharge the effect of these stress chemicals on their body. The natural human tendency is to do this too. But, we are often told (by ourselves or others) to “calm down,” “get it together,” “stop being so sensitive,” and “be a big boy/girl and suck it up.”
When we purge the survival chemicals after a trauma, it shows our primitive brain that we survived and we are safe. This sends a signal to the cognitive brain to process the information and throw out the irrelevant associations related to it. Facing and surviving a trauma, if discharged in a healthy way, can actually help us feel more empowered and able to handle things in the future. It can create a sense of security even.
If we don’t discharge the trauma though, the primitive brain freezes the event in our systems. Anything in the future that reminds of us this original event, can trigger further responses.
While I do not advise releasing a trauma on your own, you can definitely use one of my favorite energy therapy techniques to calm yourself down when you do get triggered from it: How To Tap Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
For more ways to calm your fight, flight, or freeze response, you can use my Cheat Sheet For Instant Emotional Calm. It will be automatically emailed to you when you sign up to be part of my email community. Just use the blue sign up box at the top of this site.