Emotional Intelligence

Fight or Flight: How to Handle the Threats You face

woman standing in the middle of a crowded street, overwhelmed with anxiety.

Workplace stress, social threats, dealing with criticism, and financial strain are just some of the areas of life that can trigger our fight or flight response. When it’s an occasional happening, most of us are able to handle it with grace. When it’s a daily occurrence, it’s time for us to learn how to better handle the threats we face.

What is the fight-or-flight response?

According to Harvard Medical School, “the “fight-or-flight” response…evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations.” 

Unfortunately, the hectic pace of life and the level of stress and threats that many of us face on a daily basis, often causes our hearts to race, breath to catch, muscles to tense and sometimes we even break out in a sweat. 

Our body’s fight or flight response isn’t meant to be turned on daily, but unfortunately, the chronic stress that so many of us face is forcing us to find tools for managing anxiety more effectively.

What triggers fight or flight?

The fight or flight response can be triggered in many ways – a threat to our safety, a new bill comes in, someone gets angry, we get cut off in traffic, and the list goes on. 

The interesting thing about humans is the fight or flight response can be triggered without having a physical stimulus in our environment. We can trigger it just by thinking of something we perceive to be stressful or threatening. That means we don’t have to be experiencing danger to feel anxiety symptoms. Our brains are that powerful!

The great thing about that is that we can use that same brain power to help take us out of fight or flight mode. 

How do I get my body out of fight or flight mode?

As many sports coaches, players, and fans will tell you, the best defense is a good offense. Rather than waiting until you are in fight or flight mode to do something about it, being proactive will help lessen your reaction to daily stress at home and at work. 

The healthier we are mentally, emotionally, and physically, the better we are able to cope with the stressors that can cause the fight or flight response. 

These are just some of the ways you can proactively reduce your stress levels and increase your personal resilience. It’s important to take the time to figure out what works best for you to keep your energy and your emotional bandwidth as high as possible. 

If you do find yourself in a place where your anxiety is rising fast, I will share an insight here that changed my life and how I handle anxiety. 

To worry is to pray for what you do not want. 

Because our minds are so powerful and it is human nature to look for validation of our thoughts, we can worry ourselves right into the problem that concerns us. Instead of focusing on what you do not want- ask yourself what you do want to happen and remind yourself of your desired outcome.  

How do I transform fear into motivation?

As you develop your emotional intelligence, learning more ways to deal with your fight or flight responses, you will find that you can get better at changing your perception of the emotions you are feeling. You can even use these new skills to empower yourself and your behavior to get better results. 

The first step for transforming your fear into motivation is to pinpoint the kind of fear you are experiencing. We can feel fear of failure, success, criticism, and more. When you know the kind of fear you are feeling you can go to the next step. 

Step two, self reflect. What reasons might you be feeling this fear and are they currently valid? Sometimes experiences from our past might hold us back from pushing toward the things we want, even though there is no current stimulus for the fear. When we take the time to reflect on it, we may realize that we have no reason to be afraid.   

Step three, make the decision that it will no longer hold you back and then build your strategy to move forward. No matter what you face, there is a way to get past the fear you are feeling. It starts with the courage to take charge of your emotion and then to do what it takes to get what you want. 

The final step is to take action! This is where many people fall down. They figure everything out but then fail in the follow-through. Taking consistent steps toward the things you want is the only way you will make them happen. 

The fight or flight response is something that can serve us well in truly dangerous situations but we need to take control of it when the fear we feel is stopping us from doing the things we really want. We all have the power to bring our visions for our lives to reality. I hope this helps you get past the fight or flight response and take action!

If you’d like to learn more about overcoming fear and doubt, and turning it into motivation, I invite you to get a copy of Outwitting the Devil, by Napoleon Hill. In it, Hill digs deep to identify the greatest obstacles we face in reaching our personal goals—including fear, procrastination, anger, and jealousy—and he gives seven principles that will allow us to triumph over each one to finally succeed. CLICK HERE to get your copy now. 

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