What Is The Fight or Flight Response
A Riveting Story…
Once upon a time, many many moons ago. Like really, a long long time ago. A time when you’re living in the Jungle.
You’ve got long frazzy hair. You’re wearing leopard skin rags that partially cover your body. That’s the norm for those days.
Your body contains numerous scars, sweat and dirt….it’s that kind of environment. (If you’ve got OCD like me you probably already died right about now lol).
Your typical day consists of waking up, going out into the forests to hunt for food. Chop down trees and bring back logs to create a fire. A real hunter-warrior type person.
One day you’re going about your daily business. Strolling along, when an almighty ROARRRRR startles you.
Confronting The Beast
In front of you is a ginormous beast. Sharp claws. Two massive canines dripping with multi-coloured saliva. It’s almost twice your size. Muscular jaws that you know can rip your limbs off within seconds.
As you momentarily freeze from shock and paralysing fear, you notice your heart pounding incredibly fast. The stress and anxiety you’re feeling has sky rocketed to astronomical levels.
What you’re not aware of is the internal response of your body. Adrenaline being released at rapid rate. All kinds of hormonal activity gone wild. Important survival instruments, why…
You now have two choices with the beast. FIGHT it. Or Flight…run away from it.
That’s where your body’s natural survival instincts come into play. The release of hormones and adrenaline is designed to help give you a boost of energy.
This boost of energy then helps you in fighting the beast, or run away from it.
Do you remember those video games, where you get an injection of boost…maybe to run faster. As you click on the controls to run faster, you see the boost line slowly go down?
Well that’s what happens with the fight or flight response. The energy is boosted in your body, and then you use that to fight the beast, or run away as fast as you can.
When you’re running away from the beast (yeah somehow I get the feeling you ain’t going to choose to fight it lol)…your adrenaline is being used up. The extra energy is being used up, until you get to safety…and then you’re exhausted. So you rest to recover.
Great story huh? But what does that have to do with anything?
Back To Reality
Well, fast forward to today. You are still you. Hopefully your hair isn’t frazzy anymore, and you’re not dirty and you dress well. But your body and its mechanisms are still the same.
When you become fearful, stressed or anxious guess what happens? Yup, your body releases adrenaline.
The only difference now is that the cause of stress is different. You’re not confronted by a gigantic beast (regardless of how much of d-head your boss might be aha).
It might be work that’s causing you stress. It might be your relationship. Heck it could be anything.
Whatever the reason, it’s triggering the fight or flight response within you, i.e. your body is releasing a ton of extra energy in your body.
But because of the way society is, because we’re not in the jungle anymore, we’re not fighting beasts and we’re not running away from them for our lives.
What that means is if you’re not undertaking any physical activity, that extra energy isn’t being used up.
If it’s not being used up, then of course it’s staying in your body…when it really has no place there. It’s only purpose is to be used quickly when you are stressed.
WTF Is Wikepedia Chattin’
I chose to tell a story, because Wikipedia tells you this:
“The reaction begins in the amygdala, which triggers a neural response in the hypothalamus. The initial reaction is followed by activation of the pituitary gland and secretion of the hormone ACTH.
The adrenal gland is activated almost simultaneously, via the sympathetic nervous system, and releases the hormone epinephrine. The release of chemical messengers results in the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system.
The initial response and subsequent reactions are triggered in an effort to create a boost of energy. This boost of energy is activated by epinephrine binding to liver cells and the subsequent production of glucose. Additionally, the circulation of cortisol functions to turn fatty acids into available energy, which prepares muscles throughout the body for response. Catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) or noradrenaline (norepinephrine), facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action and:
- Acceleration of heart and lung action
- Paling or flushing, or alternating between both
- Inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops
- General effect on the sphincters of the body
- Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
- Liberation of metabolic energy sources (particularly fat and glycogen) for muscular action
- Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
- Inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation
- Dilation of pupil (mydriasis)
- Relaxation of bladder
- Inhibition of erection
- Auditory exclusion (loss of hearing)
- Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision)
- Disinhibition of spinal reflexes
If you understood all of that then you are a damn genius. All I know is that when the fight or flight response is activated a LOT of shit is kicking off in your body. It’s not one or two things…it’s so many things.
The effect of hormones in the body is something severely over-looked in the modern age. But if this is the type of stuff that is released within our bodies and then we do nothing to get rid, is it any wonder that the majority of us are messed up?
My typical day as a lawyer consisted of me waking up at a time I didn’t want (instant stress). Sitting in traffic I didn’t want to be in (prolonged stress). Doing work I didn’t like for the rest of the day in the office (prolonged stress).
And then sitting in traffic to get home, whereby i’m too tired to do anything else, except….eat junk food and watch television. NO F’ing WONDER I FELT LIKE SHEEEEET!
So what’s the big take away from all of this?
Practical Steps You Need To Take
Everyday…physically exert yourself. More so when you’re stressed or anxious. You don’t need to go all Commando like Arnold.
A 30 minute walk everyday will do wonders. Jogging. Cycling. Swimming. Hit the gym. Or just jump up and down on the spot.
Point being is to stay active, release the negative, excess energy from your body.
My last article discussed some of the baby steps I took, which you can read here: <The Actions I’m Taking>
We tend to live in age where we’re all worried about something. Worried about my job, worried about money, worried about health…all that worry is causing a lot of stress. That’s creating a lot of adrenaline, which isn’t being used.
Worrying is also like praying for something you don’t want. So just drop it.
I hope this article was helpful. Let me know if it was, or it wasn’t. Let me know what routine you have for dealing with stress, or even what daily activities are you doing to physically exert yourself.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Until the next one…
This was a refreshing read. I have a medical background and explaining flight or fight to people and what happens in our bodies amazes me every time. Great post!
Thank you. Yeah it’s a concept that’s been stuck in my mind for some years…sometimes I just forget and don’t act upon it. But then I came across quite a few people that had no idea about it, so just put it out there.
I feel the authenticity in this article. So relatable. I deal with stress by playing basketball or running. I need to do something or else I’m going to explode. It’s not really helpful if we just stay in the corner, watch tv or scanning our phones here and there while dealing with stress.
Hey, thank you. Yeah sports like basketball are definitely great to get the energy out…and you’re right, if it builds up you do feel like you’re going to explode.
I love that you recommended walking or jogging. I often go for a long walk after a rough day at work and it definitely helps me come back the next day feeling as though I can handle anything. This is such a great post and I’m sure many others will find it useful as well.
Many thanks for the comment…yeah walking is great but often over-looked. Even a 15-30 minute walk everyday will do wonders.
I haven’t thought about the fight or flight response quite like this. This is some really good info, I do have to get active more and this kind of just solidified that notion. Thank you for the info!
Glad it helped…thank you.