Stop Your Fight-or-Flight Reaction to Help Your Mental Health

Obstacles continue to block our path to mental health, and as a result, living with anxiety seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Use these tips to stop reacting to events and regain control of your mental health.

How to Stop Your Fight or Flight Reaction

Many things happen within us when we react. Emotions and negative thoughts take over. Often without realizing it, we begin to breathe more rapidly and shallowly, which activates the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight). In turn, our heart begins to race and pound, we become alert for more danger. This fuels our negative emotions and thoughts, and anxiety deepens.

Unfortunately, the current threats seem never to end. We’re stuck in reaction mode. You’re not at the mercy of your nervous system, however. Take charge of your physiological reaction to regain a sense of control.

  • Use mindfulness to center yourself. When you notice anxiety, shift your attention to something you can see or feel. Look at an object and concentrate on its details, or place your hands on a solid surface and notice how it feels.
  • Turn off your sympathetic nervous system through breathing exercises for anxiety. Begin to breathe slowly and deeply, and pay attention to the sound and feel of the air entering and leaving your body. You can even focus on a simple word such as “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale to calm your thoughts.

It may take some conscious effort, but you can override your reactive fight-or-flight response no matter what is happening around you. Then, you can regain your mental health.

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APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, June 14). Stop Your Fight-or-Flight Reaction to Help Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Last Updated: June 15, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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