What is the Fight or Flight Reflex?

The term, fight or flight reflex, refers to an instant and automatic reaction by our body to a threat – and that threat can be either real or perceived, and also physical or emotional. What’s more, the fight or flight reflex can kick in when someone we love (such as our child, for example) is in danger.

Human beings, as well as other animals, are amazingly well adapted for life and this reflex is one of the ways we are biologically hard-wired for survival. When you find yourself in danger, you don’t have to stop to think about it, you react. You snatch your hand off the hot stove burner, you throw yourself backwards away from a car careening around the corner. Or you lift the heavy dresser off your toddler!

How is this possible?

When we feel threatened, our bodies release a flood of stress hormones. Adrenalin is the one most of us have heard of, but there are others as well that come shooting through our systems lightening fast.

We feel a burst of extra energy and strength. Our hearts beat faster. Our breathing becomes rapid. Blood rushes to our major muscles and vital organs.

This is great for playing competitive sports like football (Go Broncos!) or when we’re white water rafting; or even when we’re on stage in a play or giving a speech.

Anytime we are involved in something challenging for a finite period of time, this reflex can be an asset to our performance.

But if we are constantly releasing adrenalin, etc., into our bodies, we will soon become tired of it – literally! We can become exhausted, have trouble concentrating, feel irritable, and have trouble sleeping. Not a good situation!! (Return to Anxiety: What is It?)

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