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Fight or Flight?

Updated: May 1, 2023

Me: I have been a doer, always. And a perfectionist! which I have acknowledged to myself in recent times. This acknowledgement has helped me in being more aware and letting go with more ease now.

More on the subject - The terms fight, flight and freeze were introduced to me when I was reading up a lot on what I thought I was going through. What "they" call - a constant hyper aroused state.

Hyper arousal is a nervous system state where you have constant mobilising energy to do your work or tasks and when your system is in a state of acting but is not able to completely return to rest/unable to shut down.

effects - restlessness of varying degrees/unable to shut down(sleep issues)/racing thoughts.

So, this means that if for a long time, you have tried to keep up with something or are overwhelmed by something, you may be in a perpetual fight mode.

When I went through a serious of situations that constantly kept me overwhelmed, my survival mode kicked in, I was always ready to 'fight' situations. If not, then there was the other extreme of a feeling a complete emotional shutdown. During this period, I often felt people's intentions were a threat to me. While this may not be the case with everyone, our fight (survival) response may put a filter on people's intentions or even seemingly harmless or manageable comments may put you ill at ease.

My moods fluctuated from being in varying degrees of numbness or dissociation (poly vagal shutdown) to stressed (sympathetic mode) to get things done and back to feeling dissociated. I felt a constant shifting between these 2 states and my nervous system was simply dysregulated.

I knew something was not right.

Reaching Out -

I took professional help, kept reaching out to supportive friends and started reading up on articles on nervous system dysregulation.

My family was also aware of what I was feeling. I initially felt a slight sense of shame of how I was not able to make things better for myself any quicker. But later, I only held on to the support and let go of any shame to help my recovery become faster. It was hard. But support was always around the corner.

Regulating the nervous system - (the ventral vagal state)

Another important facet of trying to heal from dysregulation, is to listen to your body's cues or seek help and understand the signs when your body is seeking regulation. Some of the things that worked for me were:

A) Doing Yin exercises and somatic practices. Intense workouts/exercises will only aggrevate a hyper aroused nervous system. But, if you feel that the anxious energy and residual cortisol needs a discharge, weekly or biweekly active workouts can help.

However, if you are going through a freeze/dissociated state, activating exercises and breathwork are good to regulate your body-mind.

C) Writing down your tasks and goals - so that your fight mode feels in control

D) Socializing. Yes, I never realised the importance of social engagement so much until now.

Our nervous system relies on connection for co-regulation and feeling 'safe'.

E) Not judging or being too critical of yourself. You know what your optimum levels of performance are, but in a dysregulated state does it make more sense for you to try and reach that optimum level? It is possible you are going to face burn out faster.

F) Last but very important, not isolating yourself. Spending time in nature, stepping on soil, taking daily sunlight, and taking cold showers, yes they help!

For close friends and family -

It is important to make the person going through symptoms of dysregulation to feel that you are available for support. THAT YOU ARE THERE. THAT WE WILL TAKE CARE OF IT TOGETHER. Just that statement will take them a long way and towards healing.

In short, try not to judge someone going through something like this. Many temperamental changes could be because of their nervous system response to the situation. Brush it off, or let them know politely that any brash response was uncalled for. Hear them out. But if they feel you are not being sensitive to their need for 'safety', they will block you off from expressing themselves, survival mode working in incognito ;)

Remember, it is their's as well as you as their support system 's goal to help heal.

And most importantly, it is ok to have emotional breakdowns, but seek support and slowly work on your self one step at a time.

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