Fight, Flight, Freeze Responses

Look at the following list of flight, fight freeze responses below, possible signs that one is no longer feeling safe and might need to stop what they are doing.  This is not a complete list but may help to identify what you need to be watching for:


  • Crying
  • Hands in fists, desire to punch, rip
  • Flexed/tight jaw, grinding teeth, snarl
  • Fight in eyes, glaring, fight in voice
  • Desire to stomp, kick, smash with legs, feet
  • Feelings of anger/rage
  • Homicidal/suicidal feelings
  • Knotted stomach/nausea, burning stomach
  • Metaphors like bombs, volcanoes erupting


  • Feeling stuck in some part of body
  • Feeling cold/frozen, numb, pale skin
  • Sense of stiffness, heaviness
  • Holding breath/restricted breathing
  • Sense of dread, heart pounding
  • Decreased heart rate (can sometimes increase)
  • Orientation to threat


  • Restless legs, feet /numbness in legs
  • Anxiety/shallow breathing
  • Big/darting eyes
  • Leg/foot movement
  • Reported or observed fidgety-ness, restlessness, feeling trapped, tense
  • Sense of running in life- one activity-next
  • Excessive exercise

The next part of this process is to know what works for you when you are feeling distressed.  How do you calm yourself and what is helpful in managing difficult emotions.  Remember the object is not to avoid our feelings, which are not helpful, but rather to acknowledge and honour them. As has been said “pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional”.  Suffering comes from trying to avoiding feelings.  But simply acknowledging what we are feeling is not enough it is also important to know what to do when we acknowledge them, how to sooth and calm ourselves.  How do you comfort and sooth yourself?  What practices do you use, maybe there are cultural or spiritual practices you use that help you calm yourself, such as smudging, drumming, chanting or singing, praying, deep breathing, walking, stretching, writing, talking, listening to music.  To learn more about other practices and easy to learn techniques for calming yourself when you feel anxious and/or distressed please refer the video section of this website.

Next: Resiliency >