Fight or Flight: Understanding How Your Body Responds to Stress


We have all had that feeling when confronted with a situation that stresses us out — do we stay and deal with it, or do we give in to our non-combative side and run away? This phenomenon is known as our acute stress response, more commonly called “fight or flight,” and is the body’s biological reaction to unpleasant stimuli. Read on to learn more about this sensation, the effects it has on your health, and how the caring team at Faithfully Guided can help you find balance again through whole-body practices.

What Is Fight or Flight?

Fight or flight is the term given to the survival response, the sympathetic nervous system’s reaction to what it deems to be a danger. In scenarios that provoke this response, adrenal gland hormone production of adrenaline and noradrenaline increases, and all of the body’s systems redirect themselves with one goal in mind — keeping you alive. This means that the body slows down non-essential functions such as reproduction and growth hormone production or digestion.

Physiological Triggers

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for inducing the fight or flight response. This system comprises the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, where the sympathetic nervous system reacts to danger, and the parasympathetic nervous system fights to maintain homeostasis or balance. In times of fight or flight, the sympathetic nervous system ramps up your body, and your parasympathetic nervous system helps calm you back down.

What Are the Symptoms of Fight or Flight?

When the fight or flight response is engaged, several physical changes take place, including the following.

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Paled or flushed skin
  • Delayed pain reaction
  • Pupil dilation
  • Heightened senses
  • Tensing or trembling muscles
  • Involuntary bladder release
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweaty palms or cold hands
  • Dizziness

When Is the Fight or Flight Response Harmful?

The fight or flight response originated with our caveman ancestors, who dealt with much more dangerous events than we do in current times. So, it was beneficial for them to have a biological prompt for what to do when these situations arose.

However, we do not have nearly as many life-threatening circumstances facing us in today’s world. So, a frequently engaged fight or flight response to everyday stressors such as work, bills, or family life, to name just a few, can be bad for your mental and physical health.


For a body that frequently feels the fight or flight sensation, the stress hormone cortisol is elevated, leading to a litany of health issues that can cause serious problems over time. Any prolonged, inappropriate, or overly intense experience of flight or flight engagement puts chronic stress on your body, which is detrimental to your overall wellbeing and leads to the following adverse effects.

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Lowered immunity
  • Increased risk of developing autoimmune disorders
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Impaired brain function and memory retention
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Insatiability that leads to weight gain
  • Burnout

How to Handle Fight or Flight Healthily

Learning to combat stress is essential to taming the occurrence of fight or flight. Some ways to calm the response down include exercise, meditation, and deep breathing. You may also need counseling to better identify the core cause of the issue or your functional medicine doctor to explore underlying causes.

When it comes to managing stress and training your body to not automatically go into fight or flight mode over the slightest cause, you need the functional brain health services at Faithfully Guided. We use stress resiliency as a pillar of our effective discovery process that begins our whole-person treatment to help you better handle stress. Contact us today to set up an appointment and get started on the path to abundant life.

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