Finding Balance: How to Escape Fight or Flight Mode

Last Updated on April 22, 2024 by Brendan Barnhill

Whether it’s work pressures, family responsibilities, or the relentless buzz of our phones and technology, it is all too easy to find ourselves trapped in a constant state of stress. Many of us feel like we’re always on high alert, ready to fight or flee at a moment’s notice. This perpetual state of “fight or flight” can take a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. But there is hope. By adopting certain strategies and practices, you can learn to break free from the constant fight or flight cycle and bring balance back to your life. 

Understanding fight or flight mode 

The fight or flight response is a natural physiological reaction that occurs in response to perceived threats or stressors. When faced with danger, our bodies release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, preparing us to either confront the threat head-on or flee to safety. While this response is essential for survival, prolonged activation can have detrimental effects on our health.

A certain level of stress is a good thing for our bodies to experience sometimes, such as a difficult exercise session, speaking in front of a large group, participating in activities outside of your usual comfort zone or going for a job interview. We need to learn how to harness this positive type of stress and utilise it to better our performance. However, constantly being stuck in fight or flight mode is a different type of stress that will have negative effects on our long term health.

Recognising the signs 

The first step in escaping the fight or flight mode is recognising when we’re stuck in it. Common signs include heightened anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating. Pay attention to how your body and mind feel throughout the day. If you notice these symptoms regularly, it may be a sign that you’re stuck in fight or flight mode.

Practical strategies for finding balance

Once you’ve identified that you’re in fight or flight mode, it’s time to take action to restore balance. Here are some practical strategies to help you escape fight or flight mode more immediately, and also for the longer term.

Short term strategies include:

  • Going for a walk: Remove yourself from the situation (if you are able) and give your mind a break. Take notice of the beauty of nature and think about positive elements in your life.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can be done anywhere, and help calm the nervous system and bring your body and mind back into balance. Take the time to learn some techniques that will help you when you are stuck in flight or flight mode.

Longer term strategies include: 

  • Engage in regular physical activity: Exercise is a powerful tool for reducing stress and releasing tension. Whether it’s going for a walk, practicing yoga, or hitting the gym, find physical activities that you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine. 
  • Practice regular mindfulness: Start with just a few minutes of meditation, yoga or breathwork each day and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no to activities or commitments that add unnecessary stress to your life. Setting boundaries is essential for protecting your time and energy and preventing burnout.
  • Prioritise self-care: Make self-care a priority in your daily life. This includes activities that you like doing such as reading, taking a bath, or spending time outdoors. Remember that self-care looks different for everyone, so find what works best for you.
  • Connect with others: Humans are social beings. Build and maintain strong social connections with friends and loved ones. Having a support network to lean on during challenging times can provide comfort and perspective.
  • Seek professional help: If you’re struggling to escape the fight or flight mode on your own, don’t hesitate to seek support from an experienced health professional. They can provide valuable tools and insights for managing stress and improving overall well-being.

Breaking free from constant fight or flight isn’t easy, but it’s possible with dedication and practice. By incorporating these strategies into your daily life, you can learn to have a greater sense of calm, resilience, and balance. Remember that it’s okay to ask for professional help along the way.

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Our Women's Health Medical Expert

Kathleen Kuntz, MSN/NP

University of Pennsylvania BSN/MSN Nursing 2002 
Australia – AHPRA Registered Nurse with Nurse Practitioner
Specialisation in Obstetrics/Gynaecology/Sexual Health

Kathleen is an experienced Nurse Practitioner with a proven track record of assisting clients in finding relief through alternative plant based medications.

With over 25 years experience in women’s health, Kathleen has extensive experience in looking after female veterans who experience chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD and related insomnia (at unacceptably high rates); women experiencing chronic pain associated with endometriosis or other chronic pelvic pain syndromes; sexual health, vulvovaginal pain, pain with intercourse, and pain related to menopause.

After experiencing the positive effects plant based medicine had on patients in the USA, Kathleen undertook the training/education to become a certified cannabis prescriber. After moving to Canberra from the USA, Kathleen became an authorised prescriber in Australia. 

Kathleen is driven by her passion to help patients on their healthcare journey through alternative medication.