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Posted 11/01/2022 in Christian Mental Health Tips

How to Stop The Fight or Flight Response


How to Stop The Fight or Flight Response

Does a racing pulse, quickened breathing, and dilated pupils in a stressful situation sound familiar to you? If so, you have most likely experienced the fight or flight response.

If you're aware of what the fight-or-flight response is, you probably know that it's how the human body responds to sudden danger or threats. But did you know that this natural response can become less helpful when it is activated too often?

See, even though the flight or flight response is absolutely necessary for some situations, it can be extremely disruptive and awkward in others. This is especially true for people with mental health conditions as they may have an overactive fight-or-flight response (which is also know as the stress response and flight-flight-freeze response) that makes them feel threatened more often, even at times when there's no danger.

In these situations, there are some coping mechanisms you can use to suppress the fight-or-flight response and reduce the symptoms of acute stress. This post is all about that, so if you think you may have an overactive flight or fight response, keep reading.

What Is The Fight-Or-Flight Response?

As mentioned above, the fight or flight response is the human body’s natural reaction to danger or threat. Although it is called the fight or flight response, we could actually fight, flight, freeze, and eventually even fawn. This is because our bodies are wired to respond to perceived threats in one of four ways: fight, flight, freeze or fawn.

The fight, flight, freeze or fawn response is how the body responds to perceived threats. It is involuntary and involves a number of physiological changes that help someone prepare to:

The fight response is characterized by an increase in heart rate and adrenaline as we prepare to defend ourselves. The flight response is characterized by a sudden burst of energy as we attempt to escape the threat. The freeze response is characterized by a feeling of paralysis as we try to make ourselves as small and unnoticeable as possible.

Eventually, the fawn response may come into play. This is characterized by a feeling of submission and compliance as we try to appease the threat. This response is often seen in victims of domestic abuse or other forms of violence. It's important to remember that these responses are normal and natural. They are our body’s way of trying to protect us from harm. Still, in some cases, they can do more harm than good.Why Is it Important to Avoid Chronic Stress

Ideally your body should be able to switch between parasympathetic, sympathetic with relative ease. Therefore, when you encounter stress, you body should process it and then return to a relax and calm state.

However, when you experience chronic stress chronic stress or experience a trauma, you may become stuck in sympathetic fight-flight mode. This can interrupt everything from basic daily abilities like sleeping, self-care, and eating to intricacies like learning and self-soothing. Furthermore, it can leave you feeling anxious and depressed, as well as distant from life.

The physical consequences of chronic or abnormal fight-or-flight can include high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and exacerbation of fibromyalgia, chronic gastritis, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) symptoms. 

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Techniques To Calm The Fight-or-Flight Response

Since the stress response is a reflex, it can be triggered at any time and in any situation. However, there are some self-help techniques that can help you to calm down and alleviate the symptoms. These techniques can be used in any situation, and with practice, you can learn to control the fight-or-flight response. Here are some of the best:

Focus on who God is

One of the best ways to calm the flight or fight anxiety is to focus on who God is instead of who you are in the situation. Praise and prayer God can move mountains and like David conquered Goliath with his focus on God, you too can conquer any stressful situation that comes your way.

Work on your triggers

Working on your triggers is a critical step in managing your mental health. You can read about a step-by-step process for identifying your triggers here: how to identify your triggers.  

By identifying what regularly triggers your stress response, you can develop a plan to manage them. This may include avoiding certain situations, using coping mechanisms, or seeking professional help. Working on your triggers can help you to better manage your mental health and prevent further distress.

Get regular exercise

Exercise is a key component of calming the stress response. When we are physically active, our bodies release endorphins that have a natural calming effect. Exercise also helps to reduce stress by giving us an outlet to release tension and frustration. Physical activity reduces the stress response by: decreasing stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Regular exercise can help to keep the fight or flight response from being triggered as easily and can also help us to feel calmer and more relaxed.Functional food ad to help manage fight-or-flight response

Remind yourself you are safe

The fight-or-flight response is a normal and natural reaction to stress, but it does not necessarily mean that there is any real danger present. Simply reminding yourself that you are safe can help to calm the stress response and allow you to better cope with what’s stressing you out. 

Cue your relaxation response

When you’re in fight or flight mode your sympathetic nervous system is activated. This can lead to physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, and shallow breathing. To calm your stress response, cue your relaxation response by taking deep, slow breaths or focusing on contact points like your feet on the ground or your hands on your lap. This will help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will bring your body back into balance and help you to feel more relaxed.

Live in the present

To calm the fight or flight response, it is important to live in the present and be aware of what is happening in the here and now. This will enable you to assess a situation properly and make better decisions based on what is actually happening rather than what your anxiety is telling you.

Have an ice-cold drink of water

Another great way to calm the body's stress response is to drink a glass of ice-cold water. This can help lower the body's temperature and heart rate, thus reducing stress. Cold water can also help improve focus and concentration. So if you're feeling stressed, try having an ice-cold drink.

Socialize

Spending time with friends and family can help reduce stress and anxiety. This is because when you interact with others, your body releases oxytocin, which has a calming and relaxing effect. In addition, there is a buffer theory that states people who have close ties with family and friends receive emotional support that helps to sustain them in times of chronic stress and crisis. For both of these reasons, it is quite crucial to take some time to connect with loved ones, this one thing does both your mind and your body a favor.

Remind yourself of the truth

When the fight-or-flight response is activated, it's normal to feel panicked or out of control. In this case, it is important to remember that you're loved, you’re safe, and you can handle whatever is happening. These reassuring thoughts are a form of positive self-talk that can help calm your response and allow you to think more clearly. Challenging and refuting your negative thoughts with positive ones is a method that has always worked well to calm anxiety.

Laugh

Laughter has amazing calming effects on the stress response. Endorphins, which have mood-boosting and pain-relieving effects are released when you laugh, helping you feel much lighter. Laughter also decreases stress hormones and increases oxygen intake, which can help you relax your body and mind. So if you're feeling anxious today, try laughing! You can do this more easily by watching a comedy film, reading a funny book, or spending time with friends who make you laugh.

Engage in therapy

There are many things that can trigger the fight or flight response in people. For some, it may be a traumatic event that happened in the past. For others, it may be a constant stressor in their life. Therapy can help calm the stress response by providing a safe space for you to explore your feelings and experiences. Therapists can also help you understand and manage your triggers. If you are struggling with the fight-or-flight response, please consider seeing a therapist. Therapy is always a good idea. Click here to find a Christian therapist near you.

Finial Thoughts on How to Get Out of Fight or Flight

Remember, every single part of you was finely crafted by a God who loves you. He created the fight-or-flight response for your safety, not for your suffering. So if the fight-or-flight response is making your life difficult, know that it is not God’s plan for you, and whatever is not God’s plan for you can be stopped. Your anxiety can be managed; you only need to have the willingness and confidence to try and manage it.

About the Author: 

Corine Williams, Ph.D. is Clinical Psychologist that is currently seeing clients in the States of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. You can find out more about her practice by visiting www.therapyforchristians.com/corinewilliams. In addition to providing individual therapy, Dr. Williams is also passionate about writing books and designing merchandise that educate, uplift, and normalize mental health subject in the Christian community. You can find out more about her at  www.booksbycorine.com or by visiting her amazon profile here:  https://www.amazon.com/Corine-Hyman/e/B00AWZ5FL2
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