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Fight, flight or freeze

Fight, flight or freeze

Stress can be physical e.g. Attack, rape, accident, or physiological e.g. Tension and the emotion of fear caused by work load, relationship, financial problems, the list is endless. All stress related actions because a subjective perception by the brain of what is happening and it triggers certain automatic reactions. Hormones are excreted and these stimulate the adrenal glands to excrete the stress hormones “adrenalin, non adrenaline and cortisone. The stress hormones in turn stimulate the heart, lungs, muscles and sweat gland to accelerate, contract and react all in readiness for the fight or flight. This is the original unchanged genetic reaction primitive man used to survive, when they could fight or run.

In modern day we don’t have the physical release of fighting or running. And after a while the psychological stress builds up, if it is not released can become internalized, this is where burnout occurs.

In modern society, the fight or flight can be summarized using a traffic jam, when we are stuck in them we can see anger (fight) and despair (flight) When the fight or flight reaction hits, then a substantial amount of energy is released into the body to prepare the body for fight or flight, the liver releases extra sugar in the form of pure glucose. In addition hormones are released through some of the glands to stimulate the muscles. Heart rate, blood pressure and breathing increases in readiness for the action that may take place. Some bodily functions are curtailed to make extra energy. Some of these include the digestion and bowel functions, in some cases this is where people suddenly need the toilet or are physically sick (i.e. stage fright). Also saliva and mucus dry up to enable enlarging of the air passages, which result in the dry mouth feeling.

The body when it initiates the fight or flight releases the body’s natural pain killers, endorphins ( the happy hormone) into the blood stream, this also constricts the blood vessels to reduce bleeding, and the body’s natural clotting agent is released to improve protection. There is also the rush of adrenaline which is the reason the heart beats faster, glucose is released into the system and most of the other fight or flight reactions occur. Sometimes when a stressful event occurs all the physiological activity within the body may not cease, in this case the person can be left with muscular activity such as shaking, shivering and dry mouth. These occur as the body tries to release the energy that the body has built up, but that energy is no longer needed. In however this fight or flight is triggered continuously, then the boy reaches burnout, and once in burnout it can be a slow return to recovery as the body remembers the stress reaction. When the body has had enough then it makes you ill to the point that you can not continue. If during the recovery fight or flight is breached, the effects can often be worse as the body become very protective. With burnout the average recovery time is 2 days for every day that Burnout has been reached.

In conclusion

Fight or flight is a natural stress reaction, and if the stressor is not dealt with another way, the following apply and create fight or flight.

  • adrenalin released
  • The liver releases its store of blood sugar to send to muscles for quick energy.
  • Breathing becomes faster to take in more oxygen.
  • Oxygen is needed by muscles to help transform sugar into energy.
  • Faster breathing also helps to get rid of excess carbon dioxide.
  • The heart beats faster to transport the oxygen carrying blood to the parts that need it. As a result of this the blood pressure rises.
  • To conserve energy there is a shutdown of non-essential operations, such as digestion.
  • Secretions also stop, so the mouth is left feeling dry.
  • The bladder and bowels may evacuate any excess loads they are carrying.
  • Sweating increases in order to cool down the skin which, during the imminent action, would become hot from the body’s exertions.
  • The senses become more alert. The slightest touch provokes a reaction; sight and hearing are enhanced.
  • Blood is diverted to muscles away form the areas that don’t need it, so you may become pale.
  • Tense muscles give off lactic acid into the blood stream, which has the effect of increasing anxiety.

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