I am pretty sure many of you have heard the "fight or flight" phrase when one experiences a scenario that tests your anxiety levels. Think of a lion chasing you and you have two options: 1) run away as fast as you can OR 2) stand your ground with the possibility of being mauled by the lion. It is our ability to either sense danger and run from it OR stay and face the problem head-on.
My earliest experience was neither “fight nor flight”, merely being shocked with no movement or thought. When I was younger I encountered a dog that ran out from a yard as the gate opened and bit me on the ankle. Thankfully, at the time I was wearing my shin guards from soccer practice. My reaction to this was one of extreme fear and unconscious reaction. I did not fight off the dog nor run away. I was too shocked to do anything, I merely waited for someone to help me, hoping that the homeowner would spring into action and help but that didn't happen. I was grateful that a kind stranger walking by saw what had happened and offered to walk with me back home ensuring I was safe.
In high school, I was bullied almost every single day for example: having glue being put on my chair before I sat down. I had days where I got to a point where I never wanted to go back. My self-esteem and any resemblance of positivity I had within me, vanished and I questioned if I am ever good enough and why this was happening to me. I never thought of hurting anyone nor did I make it my mission to make another person's life difficult but somehow I was an easy target. I had tried to fight and give some of the abuse back but in general, it was more of a fight response for which I suffered internally for many years to overcome those scars and tell myself I am good enough. Thankfully being physically active kept me from chasing the rabbit down the dark hole.
In recent times my “fight or flight” response was really tested. Panic attacks became a frequent occurrence and everyday tasks became really difficult. Suicidal and intrusive thoughts were real within my headspace as I struggled with relationships and unhealthy family dynamics. I remember one panic attack I had whilst at work. It was something I never experienced ever before. It was really hard to breathe, gasping for air, and it felt like my chest was going to explode thinking my life is over. Thankfully I had an amazing friend at work who I called immediately and he offered to get me some tea and to talk which really calmed me down. Another instance was while attending a meditation class at a Buddhist center and crying for an hour. Sleeping also became really tough, sweating profusely, panic attacks and then there were days I never wanted to leave the bed. I literally forced myself out of bed. That was a flight response in full motion. Admitting I was not ok and needed help was the game-changer for me. Having being diagnosed with "Depression", I spent two weeks with people experiencing different mental health issues which allowed me to understand certain dynamics, stress, the consequences of not dealing with issues we face head-on and how it affects us physically and mentally. It was like going into major surgery and dealing with the recovery which is ongoing to this day.
These are the things I did to help me regain confidence and deal with future “fight or flight” scenarios:
Breathwork (Deep Breaths really calm the nerves - this should be thought to all kids as a lesson in school).
Take a step back and take your time before making a decision.
Try not to make decisions whilst angry.
Talking about what has been bothering me earlier rather than later.
Expressing my feelings upfront.
I have always been a vulnerable person. I put up a brave front for years just to not seem weak and not to be preyed upon. I am here to tell you, as a man its ok to have fears, vulnerabilities and weakness. These make us unique in our own ways and by accepting these traits, will allow us to manage the “fight or flight” response in a much more confident way.
Remember "Be Brave and Have A Rave"