Stress: Fight or Flight

January 4, 2022

We all know stress but what is a fight or flight stress response. It’s that feeling we get in our stomach when a deadline is looming, our boss is yelling, or things aren’t going to plan. The fight or flight response gets its name from the way it makes us feel. It’s urgent, and it gets us ready to escape danger or confront it. Stress is also a natural part of daily life but so is stress relief!. All of this makes perfect sense - humans need to adapt and react quickly in dangerous situations

Stress is normal. In fact, it can even be useful. The stress response, you’ll know as fight or flight, keeps us safe. Have you ever had to react quickly to catch a falling glass?  That superhero moment is a stress response.

Stress is something we all experience, but what exactly does it mean to be stressed? And why do we feel stressed in the first place? Stress is an emotional and physical response to a situation that you perceive as being harmful or dangerous. When faced with a threat, your body activates the fight or flight response.

The history and the science

The fight or flight response was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1915. Cannon observed that when faced with a stressful situation, there are two possible reactions: fight or flight. This response is triggered by the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and other hormones into our bodies. The hormones then prepare us physically and psychologically to deal with stressful situations and are a natural part of the fight or flight stress response.

When someone feels threatened, the stress response causes the nervous system to react almost instantly. Heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid and blood pressure rises so that the body is prepared for action. The brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline and cortisol, to help deal with whatever situation is causing the threat. Once the body has dealt with the threat, these hormone levels return to normal.

So is it normal? 

Fight or flight stress response is totally normal and happens to all of us. The key phrase to keep in mind is "perceived as being harmful." If we incorrectly perceive a situation as threatening, then our bodies will react just as if that threat were real. In fact, it's likely that many of our fight or flight stress symptoms are remnants of behaviors that were once useful in dealing with actual threats to our lives — such as fighting off wild animals or fleeing from them. Today, these behaviors often manifest themselves in more subtle ways — for example, when we worry about things like getting laid off from work or facing an upcoming test.

There are also psychological symptoms, emotional reactions to stressful situations that may have nothing to do with physical symptoms of stress. People might feel angry or frustrated, or become more sensitive than usual about certain issues such as money or relationships. They may also experience anxiety about the future and try to avoid thinking about certain things.

What type of stress triggers a fight or flight reaction

We have all been through situations where we feel like we have had enough. Whether it is in the office, at home, or even when we are out with our friends. As we grow up, this feeling becomes a part of life. Stress is an inevitable part of life, and there is no escaping it, much like fight or flight stress symptoms! It is a condition caused by the emotional and physical responses to threats. 

Stress can be broadly categorized into two types:

Eustress - the stress that motivates us and gives us the energy to get things done

Distress- the stress that overwhelms us and makes us feel tired, upset, or angry.

Eustress is what we call the energy-boosting stress that motivates us to get up and do something with our day. It happens when the gap between what you have and what you want is slightly pushed, but not too far away. The goal is out of reach, but not too far away. This fills you with motivation. The goal is in sight!

But then there's Distress - too much stress that overwhelms us and makes us feel tired, upset, or angry. We all know this feeling so well! Distress happens when your inability to cope up with certain situations causes you to lose your cool completely. This is when it’s important to turn to tools like light exercise, good gut health, meditation, and mindfulness for stress relief,

So what now?

The best way to approach Eustress is to look for ways to live a healthier lifestyle. There are three main categories that are related to your health: mental, physical, and emotional. All of them can be directly impacted by your daily routines and habits. Just remember, though, not all stress is bad. The kind of stress you want to cultivate can give you the motivation you need for performing under pressure as well as solving a problem creatively or inventively. It also gives you the energy boost necessary for getting stuff done and achieving goals.