The Stress Reaction

Fight! Flight! Freeze! These are three ways we react to a threat.

Whether we are facing a threat that is real and present, or we are worried that something bad might happen, our brains and bodies respond immediately to protect us; we shift into the stress reaction, which we know as “fight, flight or freeze.” The problem comes in when a person habitually goes into the stress reaction and has difficulty cooling off and returning to feeling normal.

This is a serious problem. The inability to return to a calm, balanced state after feeling threatened is connected to a variety of health issues.

Interestingly, the stress reaction is not always a reaction to a big threat. It can be a response to a small thing, as well. For example, when your child leaves a mess in the bathroom, when your husband or boyfriend is not listening to you or when your tax refund is not arriving on time. In fact, nearly any frustrating event can create stress. If you allow little things to affect you, you may pay a price with your well-being.

Now, here’s a question: who or what is it that is actually creating the stress? Let’s break down a typical frustrating situation, and see if we can learn something.

Suppose you are at work or school, and you must finish a project by a specific date. Your co-worker or fellow student, who is your partner in the project, is not keeping up, and it looks like you may not finish on time. You are frustrated and irritated, and do not know what to do. Do you scold the other person? Do you go to your boss or teacher to ask for more time, complaining about your work partner? Do you give up? 

In analyzing this, notice that every situation we face is made up of several parts. First, there’s this thing called context. That is the history and the social and psychological circumstances around this event. In the example above does this co-worker/student always turn in work late? Is he a bad student/worker? Is your boss or teacher especially strict? Has this person let you down before? What is your impression of your boss / teacher? Is it a good working relationship? Next, there is the event itself. Then, there is the way you react mentally and emotionally to the event. What does it mean to you? What does it say about you and the other person?  In addition, consider your behavior in response to the event – finally the response of other people to your behavior.

Looking at these components, we may determine whether our respond to the event could be a healthy one, as opposed to moving into the stress reaction. Take each part separately, and ask yourself if that part of the event is within your control. If it is, you can choose to change your action and your attitude about it; that is, if your thinking and your action is contributing to the stress. If it is not within your ability to control, let it go.

Do not wait until poorly managed stress creates a health problem. If you’re feeling stressed out and you’re ready to address this in person, please feel free to contact me. I have a lot of experience helping people cope with stress. The number to call is (219) 309-3928. It would be an honor to be of service.

For more information click STRESS AND YOUR HEALTH

Thanks for reading!