Fight, flight, freeze explained?

Do you feel stressed and exhausted by the end of the day or unnecessarily triggered or upset by seemingly insignificant events?

Are you aware of your own ‘fight, flight, freeze response’ which may be causing these issues?

Understanding the fight, flight freeze response, together with having a little knowledge of how to use some basic EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), can be valuable for helping you and the people around you cope better with all that life throws at us – from the anxiety of running late for work, to being annoyed that your computer is old and slow!

What is the fight, flight, freeze response?

In order to process our experiences, we use our five senses to continuously filter the world around us. If, out of the blue, there is a threat or a perceived threat, then our bodies react in an instance to protect us. Often, not even conscious of what the threat might be, our bodies initial response is to release hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) into the body in order to prepare to either stay and fight off the predator/danger or to run for our lives. This split decision happens in as little as 1/20th of a second and triggers either a fight, flight or freeze response. If the decision is to fight or run (flight) then the hormones that were released into the body are used and released. If the situation prevents us from fighting or runaway, then we freeze – giving the body and mind time to come up with another option or solution.

When the freeze response occurs, the cortisol and adrenaline that have already been released into our bodies are NOT (any more) naturally discharged and so remain in the body. It is thought that it is our social conditioning through time that is preventing us from releasing these unwanted hormones. On the rare occasion that our bodies do release this naturally (sometimes seen in younger children) our bodies shake seemingly uncontrollably. You can see this in animals, who regularly, after a freeze response, start to shake until they have rid their bodies of the stress hormones stored in the nervous system as a result of the threat. This clip here of the polar bear (although a little upsetting) is an excellent example of this happening.

So how does all this effect us on a daily basis?

Our bodies are not designed to live with constant high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Even though in every-day life today we no longer face the dangers of a sabe tooth tiger or a bear, our bodies still read danger and react with the same fight, flight and freeze response as our caveman ancestors. Instead our bodies now recognise danger from the various stresses and anxieties we experience daily, such as: public speaking, caught in traffic, late for work, the boss, loss of love, money problems and the list goes on… When reacting to these stresses today, often our only option is to go into the freeze response – which, as we know now, does not let the body naturally rid itself of the stress hormones. Our bodies are not meant to live with constant high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Experiencing continually high levels of these hormones are known to contribute to a range of physical and psychological problems including: fatigue, poor concentration, depression, immunity, anxiety, depression, digestive and metabolic problems, obesity, and even diseases such as diabetes.

How EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) can help.

Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT (often known as Tapping), is a healing tool that can produce impressive results for physical and emotional issues. EFT can be used in any place, at any time and on any age group.It only takes a few minutes to learn and has been reported to be extremely beneficial at combating stress and releasing the stress hormones.

Study Finds EFT Lowers Cortisol Significantly – ‘Reduces Cortisol Levels More Than Any Other Intervention Tested to Date’.

EFT is a simple technique which taps into the meridian system, where subtle energies run through the body; similar to acupuncture, but without the needles. EFT is as simple as tapping lightly on a series of acupressure points, on your face and on your body, while thinking or talking about a negative belief, emotion or physical symptom.

EFT can be effective in relieving various forms of stress and anxieties – from grief, sadness, denial, anger, anxiety to guilt. Stress and negative emotions can often cause physical ailments in our bodies, such as anger tightening the stomach or constricting the throat. By taping on certain points on our body, these physical and emotional ailments start to subside and the threatening triggers that our body remembers, can also begin to subside

In 2012 a study was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, A. J.), which found that EFT lowered the major stress hormones significantly more than other tested interventions. The randomised controlled test on the effects of EFT on stress biochemistry, showed that cortisol levels declined by an average of 10% more than other therapies; and reported that ‘The EFT group showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety and depression’

(The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial)
Short Film

STAR Groups – Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) 

This is a great little animation from Star Groups, explaining why we feel stressed, get tension in our tummy, stress-related head aches and various muscle tension; and how TRE (tension and trauma releasing exercises) can help reduce these side effects.


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