What's your crisis response?
What do you do in a crisis? How do you deescalate stress, disconnect from stressful thinking, find a calm and stable centre? Do you freak out? Run away? Collapse in a heap? Take over everything?
A crisis usually indicates some kind of loss – loss of safety, understanding, feelings of control, peace and quiet, etc. And your response (most likely) falls into one of four common responses: fight, flight, freeze or fawn – all of which are valid stress responses to crisis situations.
Let’s unpack those responses a little:
Fight: we lash out at others in a defensive response. Think cornered cat, all claws slashing.
Flight: we have a surge of energy designed to get us quickly away from danger. Think antelope running from a lion.
Freeze: like a cat and mouse situation where the mouse freezes in fear. It is a state of paralysis.
Fawn: the focus is on placating (or at least not further escalating) the aggressor. Think small dog rolling over into submission in the face of a larger, more aggressive dog. Fawn can look like submission, collapse or befriending.
All of these responses are designed for survival in life and death situations, and we are biochemically geared toward them. These responses cause hormonal and physiological changes in the body (increased heartrate, focused hearing, etc.), beginning in the amygdala, which sends signals to the hypothalamus, which then sends messages to the autonomic nervous system (the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems).
The first thing to know is that whatever your response is, that’s okay.
We’ll delve into useful strategies in the coming weeks, but for now, take a few deep belly breaths and start to become aware of your preferred crisis response. No judgment, no inner criticism, no self-shaming…just noticing.