Our bodies are continually assessing both our internal and external environment for threats. Anything which is unknown and potentially harmful.
In the case of internal events, our bodies seek "stasis," a state of equilibrium or to return to whatever our bodies consider as "normal" for our particular condition. When out of stasis, a body often reacts with symptoms like fever, rash, or pain.
In the case of external events, our minds engage in "pattern matching" and "extrapolation" to determine if the event or encounter is likely to be harmful. We match what we are observing through our senses and assess whether or not it deserves attention or should be ignored.
Individual responses to perceived threats are a function of conditioning, perception, and training. Among these reactions are the "F" words.
- Flight - we try to distance ourselves from the threat by fleeing.
- Fight - we try to combat the threat by engaging the threat and battling it to some resolution.
- Freeze - we are overwhelmed with the event and freeze in place, doing nothing, and remaining as quiet and insignificant as possible.
Beyond these three classic responses that are well discussed in the medical literature, we find additional responses that are not so well known.
- Fogging -- where individual elements cannot be readily distinguished, and everything appears to be hazy and indistinct.
- Flooding -- where we are overwhelmed with numerous and often conflicting sensations and thoughts.
- Fawning -- where we try to resolve issues by being docile, humble, or by exaggerated flattery.
- Fatigue -- where conditions become overwhelming, and we use sleep as an escape from our immediate troublesome state.
So how does this help us?
One of the keys to overcoming stress, anxiety, and panic is mindfulness. Placing yourself in a neutral, non-judgemental position and observing events as they are happening and consciously knowing the range of response options. In the case of actual danger, your body may invoke your body's unconscious, involuntary, and evolutionary responses; the classic three: flight, fight, or freeze.
However, in less threatening circumstances, especially those at work, just knowing the range of bodily responses means we can better recognize events and our symptoms in time to take appropriate action.