Welcome to my four-part series on stressors and our physiological and emotional responses to them. As we go throughout our day, any time we perceive a threat, danger, or harm, our bodies are designed to immediately respond with either the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response, and these responses are usually created through traumas or life experiences during childhood. The fight response can look like arguments, like something is always wrong, or even bouts of anger. The flight response can be someone running from their problems. Freeze can be seen when someone is stuck in their head or always daydreaming, and fawn is exhibited when an individual makes themselves “perfect” to appease the abuser. Let’s dive deep into each of these responses individually.
Our bodies are designed to always be working on our behalf and to have our own best interest as a priority. We are wired to keep ourselves alive and safe at the most primitive, basic, physiological level. When we were living as hunters and gatherers, the ability for us to stand up and fight predators in the wild to protect ourselves and our tribe was essential. Not everyone in the tribe was a fighter, but those who were experienced the same physical changes that we do today. During the fight response, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, causing our heart rate to increase and our bodies, through our blood, to release hormones (epinephrine and adrenaline) that enable us to defend ourselves.
- What am I fighting against?
- Am I looking for a fight? Why?
- Why does fighting feel comfortable for me?
- What purpose is this fight serving for me?
- Am I bored?
- I encourage you to pay attention to where you feel it in your body and when you begin to feel that fight rising, breathe into it. What does that mean? Exactly what it says…take deep slow breaths. This immediately signals your body that you are ok and that you do not actually have to fight. When we are in fight mode, we breathe with our chest, usually short and shallow. Deep, spacious breaths (count at least 5 seconds for the inhale, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds) literally tell your body, “It’s ok! We aren’t in trouble. We are breathing. We can respond clearly without anger”.
- Breathing in a pure essential oil can have an impact on your stress response within 3 seconds. Why? The limbic portion of your brain, the emotional control center, is directly linked to your sense of smell. This is one of the fastest ways to communicate with your knee-jerk fight response to say, “You’re safe. It’s ok.” The brain responds beautifully on your behalf and calms your body!
- What does the argument remind me of?
- When is the first time I felt that?
- Now that I know when I felt that for the first time, is my anger directed at this (person or event) or at the memory that felt familiar to me?