Do you know there's another way to respond to our problems instead of fight or flight?
The fight or flight mechanism is an incredible survival response built into the human brain. When we perceive a threat, rational and intellectual decision-making processes slow us down, which could have led to being preyed upon by predators in earlier times. In such situations, our heart rate increases, signaling danger to the brain, which then shuts down the frontal lobe responsible for reasoning. Our reactions become more primal. While this evolution was beneficial for survival, it is not conducive to peaceful coexistence or individuals seeking non-harm and non-violence, or those striving for higher consciousness.
Fight or flight does not help us make sound business decisions under stress, nor does it benefit us when parenting our children, as they may trigger us, leading to yelling and screaming. Yelling and screaming are rooted in the fight or flight response, which is not evolutionarily beneficial since fighting may exacerbate problems rather than solve them. We need to find an alternative response, one that overrides our instinctual patterns of fight or flight. We need a reaction that involves taking deep breaths, relaxing, and considering other options.
Other than situations involving physical danger, such as being trapped in a sinking car or running from a threat like Freddy Krueger in a horror movie, most of the danger we perceive is either a misperception or an overestimation triggered by early childhood experiences or developmental years that evoke fear, anxiety, and pain. We must train ourselves to engage in different responses: fight, flight, freeze, think, meditate, and relax. When negative experiences overwhelm us and create discomfort in our chemistry, we must choose a behavior pattern and repeat it until it becomes a habit. Routines often override instinctual drives in the human brain.
There are moments when fight or flight is not appropriate. Instead, it might be more intelligent to react to worry by taking action to solve the problem. Sitting down at a table with a notebook and writing is a more intelligent response than fight or flight. Concentrating on routinely taking long, deep breaths through the nose (which regulates air temperature and traps bacteria, viruses, and flu) helps calm our central nervous system. However, it may take time to see the effects, as other factors in our chemistry could be influencing us, such as excessive caffeine intake, lack of sleep, or consuming foods that cause stomach discomfort. Stomach upset signals trouble to the brain and alters our chemistry, potentially amplifying mental stress. In such cases, it is crucial to focus on breathing, writing, and thinking.
Furthermore, having a network of people with whom we can openly discuss our feelings can be relieving. Including this as part of our routine is important. Engaging in physical activity or exercise to get the blood pumping and release endorphins is also well-known for alleviating anxiety-related discomfort. These are critical tools that, when combined, should help ease anxiety, but they require consistent effort and should not be expected to produce overnight miracles. Some individuals may experience immediate results, while others will need to persist.
Why does it have to be fight or flight? Why not meditate and serve others? When anxiety and impending doom arise, reaching out to people who could benefit from our help or services can be a proactive response that distracts us from our worries and contributes to the well-being of others.