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(Series: Internal Awareness)

Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, ECE Behaviorist (2015)

When faced with traumatic situations we often will respond by fighting, fleeing or freezing. We do the first two to survive. Fighting and fleeing offer us hope that we can take action and outrun or outfight what is attacking us. We freeze when we have lost hope, when we feel we are helpless.

Facing disturbing circumstances can also sum up strength we are not even we are aware we have. This increase in physical resources can in a split second provide us with the ability to think quicker, fight harder or run faster. This burst of energy turns off when the mind informs us that we are no longer in danger.

Flabbergasted by an aggressor may lead us to be certain that there is no hope of surviving. It is at this point we freeze. This response we see most in accidents, people who are being robbed or attacked at gunpoint or are being raped. Freeze can happen in several different ways including passing out, mentally removing oneself from their bodies or literally freezing up. In some cases doing such provides the victim to not feel what is happening to them and it has been noted a loss of memory can happen after the attack.

There is no right or wrong response. The fact is that all three responses provide us with safety and a chance to survive. The Freeze response helps understand how many people who go through horrific trauma live.

Chronic Stress, Illness and Life Events

Series: Internal Awareness

Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, ECE Behaviorist (2015)

Our bodies tell us when we are stressed when we feel overwhelmed, lack of ability to sleep, worried, weak and exhausted. Stress has no bias, meaning it can happen to anyone regardless to age, gender and conditions. It can lead to additional mental and physical health issues. Stress can best be described as any emotional dealings that cause biochemical, physiological or behavioral changes (Baum, A. 1990). Too much stress can affect our abilities to fight infection and germs (immune), our hearts and our central nervous system.

Chronic Stress is distinct in that it is extreme amount of anxiety that is relentless and continues over a prolonged period of time. It can lead to debilitating psychological and physical consequences. Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system (Baum, A. & Polsusnzy, D. 1999). Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity (Dallman, M. et al. 2003). The results of chronic stress are serious and when untreated can lead to major depression, heart disease and other life changing illnesses.

Stress should be discussed with a primary care doctor and if needed a professional such as a therapist or counselor. They can help you overcome the obstacles that are stopping you from living a healthy life, manage stress efficiently and help identify behaviors and situations that are contributing to your consistently high stress level.

Experts recommend:

• Going to bed at a regular time each night, striving for at least seven to eight hours of sleep and eliminating distractions such as television and computers from the bedroom.

• Improving lifestyle and behavioral choices

• Recognizing and changing the behaviors that cause Stress

• Daily taking one small step to reduce your stress and improve your emotional health, such as going on a daily walk

• Being active in a physical activity

• Eating a healthy diet


Baum, A. (1990). "Stress, Intrusive Imagery, and Chronic Distress," Health Psychology, Vol. 6, pp. 653-675.

Baum, A. & Polsusnzy, D. (1999). "Health Psychology: Mapping Biobehavioral Contributions to Health and Illness." Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 50, pp. 137-163.

Dallman, M. et al. (2003). "Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of 'comfort food.'" PNAS, Vol. 100, pp. 11696-11701.