In September, we addressed different ways that you may be mismanaging your stress. Now that you know those pitfalls, we can dive more into what stress looks like and the types of stress responses you can have. You may have heard of at least two stress response types: fight and flight. In recent years, there have been talks of two other possible responses, freeze and fawn.
This month, we will explore all 4 of these stress response types and their characteristics. As we begin to explore, you may notice that you identify with more than one of these response types. This is common. The goal is not to try to fit into any one category. Instead, you should look to discover your personal stress response profile, creating an outline of your reactions to stress/stressful events by recognizing which characteristics you most identify with, regardless of the stress response type. So let’s start with the most commonly discussed response types, fight and flight.
The Fight Response
Have you ever been scared or stressed, and your initial reaction was to scream, kick, or punch? Have you noticed that in times of stress, you tend to become aggressive and/or combative? If you identify with this, one of your stress responses is most likely the fight response.Those that have fight as a stress response tend to respond to threats (stress) with the intent of overpowering them. They may be perceived as demanding and controlling.
However, their goal is to maintain security and control. The primary mode of protection for this response type is combat (or being combative).The subconscious thought here is that you must eliminate the threat (stressor) before it eliminates you.Because the fight response’s reaction to stress is to “fight,” the body will prepare for the fight even when you are not preparing for a physical fight.
Clenched jaws, tense muscles, and teeth grinding can all be seen in someone who has the fight response. A person with this response often feels better when they can carry out physical activity such as boxing, breaking plates, ax throwing, screaming, and any other activity that allows for the aggression to be released.When expressed healthily, the fight response results in assertiveness, solid boundaries, and quality leadership skills.
The Flight Response
The flight response tends towards running or fleeing from a situation. The primary mode of protection for this response type is escape. The subconscious thought here is that you need to escape the threat (stressor) before it can hurt you. If flight is one of your responses, you might notice that you are fidgety, restless, panicky, and may feel the need to run in stressful situations. You may also tend towards anxiety.
You may also participate in escapism behavior such as overindulgence in TV, social media, and alcohol. Social withdrawal is also a sign that of a flight stress response. You may avoid close relationships by filling your time with other activities such as work (becoming a workaholic). A person with a flight stress response may do well with meditative practices such as breathing exercises to release the nervous energy during stressful situations. When expressed healthily, the flight response also results in healthy boundaries, as well as productivity and a high level of discernment.