The Fight or Flight Response

What is the fight or flight response?

The fight or flight response, also known as the acute stress response, is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat. It is a survival mechanism that is triggered in the body in order to prepare for a physical response to danger.

When a perceived threat is detected, the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for processing emotions, sends a signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then activates the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones such as cortisol into the bloodstream.

This cascade of hormonal responses prepares the body for immediate physical action, such as fighting or running away from the perceived threat. The body experiences a range of physiological changes, including an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, as well as a dilation of the pupils and an increase in blood sugar levels. These changes help to provide the body with the energy and resources it needs to respond to the perceived threat or danger.

While the fight or flight response is a useful survival mechanism in certain situations, it can also be triggered in response to non-life-threatening situations, such as public speaking or taking a test. In these cases, the physiological response can be overwhelming and may interfere with our ability to perform well or think clearly.


  • Heart beats faster
  • Circulation increases blood supply to our brain and muscles.
  • Blood pressure and body temperature rises.
  • We increase oxygen levels by breathing more (leading often to hyperventilating)
  • Pupils dilate so we have a greater awareness and vision.
  • Brain activity alters to think less but react more.
  • Arteries dilate.
  • Digestion slows down
  • The dump mechanism is instigated to make us lighter (this can include the need to use the toilet or vomit).

Tips for managing the fight or flight response

Managing the fight or flight response involves recognising triggers, practicing relaxation techniques, exercising, getting enough sleep, practicing self-care, and seeking support when needed. By taking these steps, you can reduce the impact of chronic stress and promote overall health and well-being.

  1. Recognise the triggers: One of the first steps in managing the fight or flight response is to recognize the situations that trigger it. By identifying the triggers, you can take steps to prepare for these situations and reduce the impact of the stress response.

  2. Practice relaxation techniques: As mentioned earlier, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help activate the relaxation response and counteract the effects of chronic stress.

  3. Exercise: Regular exercise is a great way to manage the effects of the fight or flight response. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and can also help to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream.

  4. Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for managing stress and promoting overall health and well-being. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night, and consider developing a relaxing bedtime routine to help you unwind and prepare for sleep.

  5. Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for managing stress and promoting well-being. Make time for activities you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time with friends and family.

  6. Seek support: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the effects of the fight or flight response, don’t hesitate to seek support. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or reach out to us.

Help & Support Programme

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