Life Hacks Unleashed: How You Can Weaponize Your Flight Or Flight Mode Every Day

Life Hacks Unleashed: How You Can Weaponize Your Flight Or Flight Mode Every Day

Life Hacks Unleashed: How You Can Weaponize Your Flight Or Flight Mode Every Day

You’re taking a short cut through a dark and deserted alley when you spot a large, bulky figure coming towards you in the opposite direction. 

A co-worker who’s known to be aggressive turns up in your cubicle and begins pounding on your desk. 

It’s midnight and you hear something crashing to the floor in the next room. 

In all these situations, your response is the same: Fight or Flight. 

Do you want to turn and run the other way back up the alley, or walk confidently on? 

Will you shut your computer down and flee to the washroom, or will you stand up and ask the guy, “What seems to be the problem?”

Is your first instinct to cower under the blankets or go to the door and shout, “What’s that noise?”

What Is The Fight or Flight Response?

We may have read or heard about this psycho-physical reaction, and imagine it to be an intense, dramatic state. However, in most situations, you yourself may not realize that you’re in the fight or flight mode. 

This is one of the oldest human nervous system responses that goes back to our earliest ancestors. They were hard wired to be on the alert at all times to fend off predators, enemies and other dangers. They needed to be constantly vigilant to protect themselves and others in the group. As we evolved, this response stayed more or less the way it was though today it may not be as adaptive as it was originally meant to be. 

Often, the response is triggered in the face of a perceived threat, or an imagined situation. You meet someone new and immediately dislike them, or someone makes an insulting remark, you’re arguing with a friend about the political scene and the discussion gets acrimonious. In these scenarios too, your system could respond with the fight or flight reaction. 

Physiology of Fight or Flight

There’s no right or wrong reaction. 

Your response depends on a variety of things: how serious you perceive the threat to be, previous experiences, and your own temperament. 

But inside your body, the reactions are the same as your system prepares itself for either choice. 

This response was first described by Walter Cannon in 1915 and he coined the term “fight or flight.” Today there are other different terms used such as acute stress response, hyperarousal, freeze or fawn and more. 

It is triggered by a stimulus to the sympathetic nervous system, and the medulla part of the brain releases a variety of hormones that can:

  • Increase heart rate and blood pressure
  • Boost respiration
  • Dilate the pupils
  • Trigger urinary response in some people
  • Cause blood flow diverted from other parts to muscles 
  • Increase blood glucose
  • Ramp up muscle tone
  • Speed up blood clotting

There are concurrent emotional reactions such as aggression, fear or anxiety, and perceived control over the situation leading to risk taking behaviors. The nervous system compels the person to freeze, collapse, approach or avoid, assess the situation based on past history, and remain arrested in a state of alert.

Pros and Cons

The perception of a threat, real or imagined, is what triggers the fight or flight response. It helps to protect you against imminent danger and ensure that your body stays primed for both actions. 

Once the threat is deemed to have passed, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over. This is the Rest and Digest response and it is complementary to Fight or Flight. This second system’s responsibility is to bring the body back to equilibrium and stability. No organism can survive in a constant state of alertness, because many essential functions such as digestion are put on hold. The presence of hormones in the blood, raised vital parameters and feeling of stress can be extremely harmful in the long run. 

The parasympathetic nervous system helps to:

  • Resume salivation, lung secretions and tear production
  • Digestion and defecation
  • Lower the heart rate
  • Resume sexual function
  • Feel more relaxed
  • Flush out the fight or flight hormones
  • Regulate breathing and lower blood pressure and glucose

However, it is important to decode what triggers the fight or flight and the rest and digest reaction. You can educate yourself on the nature of responses inside your body. Without some degree of self-awareness, your body could develop a range of harmful conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cardiac problems, stroke, auto-immune conditions and more. 

Weaponizing The Fight or Flight Response

In many situations, the threat is not real nor does it call for an extreme response. However, the body’s response is automatic and involuntary, and is designed to handle conditions in anticipation of a threat. 

Prolonged exposure to Fight or Flight is termed as Allostatic Overload and it can increase the stress levels in your body. In real terms, it can result in spontaneous abortion, cardiovascular issues, cognitive decline and higher mortality rates. 

Training yourself to recognize both these responses helps to channelize the energy in the right way. 

It makes you a better and faster responder in times of threat. Once you understand the physio-neuro-psychological workings of your system, you can make faster and more accurate decisions. 

It helps you to correctly assess challenges and come up with the right response. In many cases, it evokes emotions such as courage, plan-preparation, or delayed pain response. There are 3 main stages in fight or flight:

  • Alarm or Alert where your system senses a real or perceived threat and a surge of energy flows into the body
  • Resistance where the threat component has passed but your body still remains primed for action
  • Exhaustion which is a result of unabated, uninterrupted fight or flight, where the body can no longer maintain the alert state without succumbing to damage. 

With weaponization: 

You learn to respond from other parts of the brain such as the frontal lobe instead of the amygdala. Simple tricks to channelize the fight or flight response include:

  • Body awareness: Take your mind to your body’s reactions, and feel the earth beneath your feet. 
  • Deep Breathing: helps to slow down the heart rate and calm yourself down emotionally. 
  • Journaling: Maintain a journal where you record your body and mind reactions in different situations helps to create more awareness and memory. 
  • Relaxation aids: Use a variety of relaxation and calming products and techniques available at reputable sites such as  restanddigest.com.au This helps to “outsource” the problem and use available and trustworthy assistance to activate the rest and digest reaction. 
  • You can also use various herbs, flowers or essential oils that are known to restore calmness. It’s wise to get professional and trusted help in these areas. 
  • Various techniques and practices such as yoga, biofeedback, autogenic training, deep breathing and meditation, listening to relaxing music, developing a pleasurable and non-competitive hobby and gentle exercise such as walking are other ways to control your sympathetic nervous system and ensure that it gets activated only when absolutely necessary.