The 6 F’s of Stress
No matter if it’s acute or chronic, stress affects people in different ways. Unfortunately, when we are busy moms wearing multiple hats, we often ignore or excuse the warning signs as something else and move on with our day. However, if we take a step back and honestly assess how we are feeling, mind and body, we may be able to manage our stressors better before they turn into more significant issues.
Did you know there are six distinct ways your responses will show up in your reactions and behavior? We often miss our day-to-day conditioned response signs as “normal” bodily reactions, but they expose a deeper meaning. Let’s take a look at how you may be unaware of how your body responds to stress:
- Fight: Fighting a threat can look like getting defensive, being argumentative, or lashing out
When we are under stress, our body automatically goes into fight or flight mode. This is a normal and natural response designed to protect us from danger. However, when we are constantly in a state of fight or flight, it can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Therefore, if you continually get defensive or lash out, it may signify that you are experiencing chronic stress.
Example: You may have been arguing a lot with your spouse in the last few months, and now you find yourself being argumentative and under stress every time you are around each other. Your body will subconsciously begin to react even before the stressor occurs in response to the situation. So, this could also look like lashing out before a threat to stay on the “offence” and get the danger to go away.
- Flight: Fleeing a threat can look like avoidance, procrastination, or escaping
If you find yourself constantly avoiding stressful situations or putting off tasks that need to be done, it may be a sign that you are experiencing chronic stress. This can be a complex cycle to break out of, but it is essential to try to face your stressors head-on.
Example: Using your work, hobbies or even substances to avoid feeling anxiety, fear or panic, or choosing to avoid specific projects or tasks at home or work to avoid being criticized or belittled. You will often strive for “perfection” so no one can criticize you, and you will avoid other activities not to disrupt the flow. You have decided you can no longer fight the threat; you will avoid it at all costs or run before being confronted.
- Freeze: Freezing and not doing anything in response to a threat can look like feeling paralyzed, being in shock, or feeling numb
The freeze response serves as a stalling tactic. Your brain presses the “pause” button but remains hypervigilant, waiting and observing until it can determine whether fleeing or fighting offers a better route to safety.
A secondary response under freeze is flop: Your body may disassociate or faint to not feel the stressor and protect your mind/body from experiencing it fully.
Example: You will mentally check out from situations as they are too stressful, go to great lengths to hide emotions or feelings as if you don’t feel at all, use fantasy or imagination to live out your life, and often prefer solitude.
- Flooding: Being flooded with emotions in response to a threat can look like feeling overwhelmed, being out of control, or feeling hopeless
When we are faced with a stressor, our body releases hormones that prepare us to deal with the situation. This is known as the “fight-flight” response. However, if the stressor is not resolved quickly, these hormones can become overwhelming and lead to the “flooding” response. This can be a very dangerous and debilitating state, as it can lead to physical and mental health problems. People who have little emotional capacity or PTSD often experience this quickly.
Example: If you feel hopeless, out of control or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may signify that you are experiencing a flooding response.
- Fawn: Cooperating or submitting to one’s threat or captor to avoid conflict or further harm
We try to please our captor or aggressor to avoid conflict or further harm in the fawn response. But, unfortunately, this makes it look like people-pleasing, being a doormat, or being a pushover.
Example: You may find yourself constantly saying “yes” to requests, being overly accommodating or going above and beyond what is asked of you. You may also find yourself downplaying your accomplishments or successes not to make others feel bad. You will often ignore your own needs or make yourself as helpful as possible and have difficulty setting healthy boundaries.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired and sleeping in response to a threat
When presented with stressors, you feel physically exhausted and are prone to “stress naps”. Stress depletes your brain’s glucose supply, its primary energy source, and sleep can help you replenish it. This can come on quickly, and feel as if the “sleep” is overpowering you.
Example: You may want to sleep all the time or feel tired even after a full night’s rest. You may have trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks, and you may feel like you’re running on empty. Fatigue is a common symptom of stress, and it can be challenging to overcome without proper help.
It’s vital to keep track of your stress levels to build a mental fitness plan. In addition, it’s critical to know where you are in the stress cycle to regulate it appropriately. If you frequently use the fight/flight/freeze/flooding/fatigue responses, left unchecked, stress can lead to physical and mental health problems.
If you are not sure what stage you are in, here are some quick questions to ask yourself:
-Do I feel like I am constantly in fight-flight mode?
-Do I find myself numbing out or dissociating from my life?
-Do I feel hopeless or overwhelmed by my emotions?
-Do I find myself people-pleasing or being a doormat?
-Do I feel exhausted all the time, even after a full night’s rest?
If you answered yes to any of these concerns, it’s time to seek help. You don’t have to remain in survival mode; instead, you should focus on your self-awareness and regulation skills to assist you to feel more in control and at ease.
We all get stressed from time to time, but the key is recognizing your emotional signals and teaching your body how to better cope with them. Creating a mental fitness routine is one way to do this, and it can be customized to fit your unique needs.
So, if you are feeling stressed out, don’t hesitate to start working on your mental fitness today! Here at A Mindset by Design, we have 1:1 VIP and Group Coaching Mental Fitness Programs to help you learn to regulate your stress response before it affects your mental and physical health!