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I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Fight-Flight” response?
It refers to “a physiological action that occurs in the presence of something that is terrifying, either mentally or physically”, first described by……someone, sometime, you’re losing interest!
The response to stress prepares the body to either fight or run off. Basically, it’s a survival instinct that our ancient ancestors developed to stay alive. It’s an unconscious decision – fight the threat, or run off from it.
But there’s a third “F” which we need to be aware of – FREEZE. Freeze is also an unconscious moment where you decide that the fight or flight responses doesn’t work.
Why is this relevant?
During this recent COVID crisis (and before, but very noticeably during this crisis), I’ve seen all manner of reactions from business owners.
Lots of fight – sometimes rolling up our sleeves and fighting a battle seemingly out of our favour is a great response. However, sometimes fighting a losing battle is misdirected energy.
Lots of flight – sometimes recognizing the battle can’t be won and exiting stage left is the best response. However, sometimes running away from a winnable battle is giving up too easily.
But worryingly, I’ve seen a lot of FREEZE.
You stay as still as possible, waiting for the danger to pass. This works well in short term danger situations but my concern is seeing prolonged periods of freeze.
The danger (COVID and the impact to our businesses) unfortunately isn’t going away anytime soon and my biggest worry is that we get stuck in a position of inaction (by adopting freeze), waiting for the danger to go away. The inaction isn’t going to reduce the stress responses, more likely it will intensify them because the danger is still there and hasn’t been addressed. Doing nothing is not an option.
Also worth mentioning is that all states release enormous amounts of physiological (bodily) and psychological (mind) stress responses. This was perfectly fine when we were dealing with an attacking tiger as the period of stress was short lived. The mind and body was able to recover from the short term stress and return to normal. What evolution hasn’t given us is the ability to deal with these stress responses on a long-term basis. These responses, exercised on a long-term basis are incredibly damaging to our physical and mental health.
So what can we do to combat all of this?
The first thing we need is awareness. What response are we showing to the perceived threat? Recognising how we’re reacting is the starting point. Remember that fight, flight and freeze are all appropriate responses – no one is judging anyone here! – but by accepting how you’re reacting and knowing that it’s not a viable long-term solution, you’re starting to deal with the situation.
Next step is to calm down. Write down your fears and worries, identify the things you have control of and dump the rest. The flowchart in a previous blog is gold when going through this process.
You now should have the danger framed and the things you can control identified. You’re at the point where you can rationally tackle the things you have control of (and not be worrying about the things you can’t).
From a business and personal point, this is where we can help massively:
You can book a 1-2-1 with us to get this conversation started – https://calendly.com/jameselevate/60min
We’ve all experienced one of the biggest and fastest periods of change in living memory. I’ve been guilty of too much/too little fight, flight and freeze at times during this. The freeze has been the most worrying though because it’s brought on feelings of helplessness and being swept along by it all.
It’s been a while since I wrote something like this and it’s all due to freeze.
Should I be upbeat and positive (naturally I look for solutions and not at problems) but is this going to be taken as happy clappy and inappropriate by those of us who are freaking out? Should I be realistic that the problem we’re facing is unprecedented (the most overused world in the last 6 months!) and needs drastic action but is this going to be taken as unmotivating and downbeat by those of us who aren’t freaking out?
The result – freezing and writing nothing.
The biggest step was recognizing I was in freeze mode and realising that it wasn’t appropriate. Action was needed and what better way to get back on track by writing this blog?
If you’d like to discuss anything raised here, please get in touch.
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