As part of my four-part series on stress responses, today we are diving into flight. As we know, our bodies are always working on our behalf, and when sensing danger, we will fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. It’s really important to know and understand our go-to response to stress. Flight is when we run away from the perceived danger.
Are you someone who disappears when you sense chaos, an argument, discord, or danger?
Are you someone who is happiest when daydreaming?
This is a valid and understandable stress response; however, it can be aggravating for people in your life when trying to work through and navigate conflict. If we perceive all disagreements or conflicts as a threat to run from, it can be very difficult to build healthy relationships since conflict is normal.
Here are some helpful questions if flight is your go-to response to a perceived threat…
- I have an urge to run away/disappear, but do I really need to?
- Is this relationship important to me? If so, how can I stay present and not run?
- Do I need to stay and have this conversation?
- Where did I first feel unsafe and ran to protect myself, either physically or emotionally?
If you do need to have an uncomfortable conversation, whether with a family member, spouse, or co-worker, you have options to ease into it! Try these…
- “I am uncomfortable right now. Let’s talk about this later.” Please set a time right there to show you will return.
- “Let’s talk this evening when I can focus.” (And then honor that commitment)
- “I cannot do this face to face, but I can talk about this through text or email.”
- “I need to take a break before we continue this conversation.” Then do some deep breathing exercises
I have had patients that struggle with flight as their stress response who will sit facing away from their partner for challenging conversations. They are able to stay present and have the conversation, but they feel less of a threat facing away. This is also a good option! Explain to the other person that your tendency is to run away and avoid the challenge but that you are working on staying present and need some accommodations. This allows you to honor yourself, acknowledge your needs, and build a healthy relationship and communication. Some people have chosen to sit back to back, and others have chosen not to touch at all. It is all about where you feel most comfortable.
It’s also important to get back to the first time that you felt the need or urge to run away. Spend some time reflecting on this, and when you become aware of your first memories of running, breathe into those and visualize your current self offering the younger version of yourself relief…a hug, reassurance, or a safe space. This is something you can do regularly to begin associating safety with your early stressful memories. This also might be an emotional disappearance, when did you first “zone out” and start to daydream rather than listen, creating a fantasy world to disappear into?
In the same way that deep breathing and smelling essential oils help with the fight stress response, it does with flight also. When you are feeling the urge to run, try these three tricks:
- Take a deep, spacious breath. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds.
- Smell an essential oil and allow it to travel to that limbic portion of your brain we talked about in my Fight blog
- Notice your feet. Huh? Literally, wherever you are, notice your feet and allow them to firmly plant to the ground. Feel your steadiness as you breathe. Stay connected to the earth. Spread your toes and press into the ground
- Repeat the following: “I am safe in my ability to stand here and fully communicate, I can safely have this conversation. I am safe, loved, and protected at all times.”
If flight is your go-to model, it’s understandable, but remember to breathe, grab essential oils, work to turn your flight response off, stay grounded, and try to have that conversation, even if for a couple of minutes.You’ve got this!