Do You Run your Business in Flight or Fight Mode?

Do You Run your Business in Flight or Fight Mode?

This blog post explores the signs and consequences of running a business in fight or flight mode. Then, provides valuable insights and strategies to help you shift towards a more balanced and proactive approach.

Running a business is a journey filled with both triumphs and challenges.

A certain level of pressure and urgency can be motivating. However, constantly operating in a state of fight or flight mode can have detrimental effects on your business’s long-term success. (Not to mention your personal well-being.)

By recognizing the patterns, addressing stressors, and implementing key practices, you can…

  • regain control
  • foster sustainable growth
  • and create a harmonious business environment that
  • propels you towards your goals.

Read more: Trauma Effects on Mindset

What is fight or flight mode

Fight or flight mode, also known as the acute stress response, refers to a physiological and psychological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat or dangerous situation. It is an innate survival mechanism that prepares the body to either confront the threat (fight) or flee from it (flight).

Psychology Tools (linked above) says:

The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee. These responses are evolutionary adaptations to increase chances of survival in threatening situations. Overly frequent, intense, or inappropriate activation of the fight or flight response is implicated in a range of clinical conditions including most anxiety disorders.

When a person perceives a threat, whether it is real or imagined, the body activates the fight or flight response to prepare for action.

This response is triggered by the release of stress hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol, into the bloodstream.

These hormones initiate a cascade of physiological changes throughout the body to enhance strength, speed, and focus, enabling a rapid response to the perceived threat.

Fight or Flight Effects

The fight or flight response involves several bodily changes, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, dilation of pupils, increased blood flow to the muscles, heightened senses, rapid breathing, and release of glucose for energy.

These changes prepare the body to either engage in combat or escape from the threatening situation.

Fight or flight mode evolved as a survival mechanism to help humans and other animals respond quickly to threats. It allows individuals to quickly assess the danger, make split-second decisions, and activate the necessary physical and mental resources for self-preservation.

While the fight or flight response is crucial in emergency situations, it can also be activated in response to non-life-threatening stressors. Things like work pressure, public speaking, interpersonal conflicts or other stressors can also activate the fight or flight response.

How to tell if you’re in fight or flight mode

I find it super helpful to understand what mode my nervous system is in. Identifying how I feel and what might be going on in my body helps me repond in slower, more intentional ways. Here are some common indicators on whether or not you’re in fight or flight mode…

Physical sensations

Take time daily to tune into your body and how you feel physically. Really slow down, feel each body part, and take time to be with whatever is there. Starting to BE with your body makes it easier over time to identify what it is actually feeling. It’s VERY common for us to be out of touch with our bodies.

If you’re in fight or flight mode, you might feel increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, tense muscles, trembling, dry mouth, and a sensation of butterflies in the stomach.

Emotional changes

You can also identify if you’re in fight or flight by paying attention to your emotions. You might feel INTENSE emotions like fear, anxiety, anger, irritability, or a sense of being overwhelmed. These emotions might also create a strong urge to either confront the perceived threat or escape from it.

And of course, these emotions in and of themselves don’t necessarily mean you’re in fight or flight.

Heightened alertness

When in fight or flight mode, your senses become more acute. You may notice increased focus, heightened awareness of your surroundings, and a tendency to be easily startled.

Cognitive changes

Your thinking patterns can also be affected. Your thoughts might feel clouded or swirly or gray. You may find it difficult to concentrate on tasks that require complex thinking, experience racing thoughts, have a narrowed focus on the perceived threat, or struggle with decision-making.

Behavioral responses

Fight or flight mode can lead to behavior changes.

Some people may become more aggressive, confrontational, and inclined to fight. While others may withdraw, avoid confrontation, or seek to escape the situation altogether.

Autonomic responses

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions.

In fight or flight mode, you may experience changes such as dilated pupils, increased sweat production, digestive disruptions (such as butterflies or nausea), and changes in body temperature.

It’s important to note that everyone responds differently to stress and the fight or flight response, so individual experiences may vary.

How to tell if you’re running your business in fight or flight mode

Running a business in fight or flight mode refers to operating under a constant state of stress and reactivity, often driven by a sense of survival or crisis. Here are some signs that may indicate you are running your business in fight or flight mode:

Chronic stress

If you constantly feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed about your business, it could be a sign that you are operating in fight or flight mode. This stress may affect your sleep, mood, and overall well-being.

Reactive decision-making

When you’re in fight or flight mode, you may find yourself making decisions hastily and impulsively, often as a knee-jerk reaction to immediate challenges or threats. Long-term strategic planning may take a backseat to the urgency of the moment.

Lack of long-term vision

Running your business in fight or flight mode can make it difficult to focus on long-term goals and strategic planning. Instead, you may be constantly preoccupied with immediate problems and firefighting, without considering the broader vision for your business.

Neglected self-care and well-being

When you’re in survival mode, self-care and personal well-being often take a backseat. You may neglect your physical health, skip meals, work excessively long hours, and have little time for relaxation or leisure activities.

Constant crisis management

If your business is constantly in crisis mode, dealing with one problem after another, it may indicate that you are operating in a reactive and firefighting mode rather than proactively addressing issues.

High employee turnover or dissatisfaction

Fight or flight mode can create a tense and stressful work environment. If you notice a high turnover rate among employees or a general sense of dissatisfaction and burnout among your team, it may be a reflection of the stressful atmosphere.

Lack of work-life balance

When you’re in fight or flight mode, the boundaries between work and personal life can become blurred. You may find it challenging to disconnect from work, leading to an imbalance between work and other areas of your life.

If you recognize these signs in your business, it’s important to take steps to address the underlying causes of stress and shift towards a more balanced and proactive approach. This may involve seeking support from mentors or business coaches, delegating tasks, setting clear priorities, implementing stress management techniques, and creating a strategic plan to guide your business’s growth and development.

How to Get Out of Fight and Flight in Your Business

Getting out of fight or flight mode in your business is essential for long-term success and well-being. Here are some strategies to help you shift out of fight or flight and cultivate a more balanced and proactive approach:

Recognize and acknowledge the pattern

The first step is to become aware of the fight or flight mode in your business. Acknowledge the signs and symptoms, and understand the negative impact it has on your overall well-being and business performance.

Identify and address stressors

Identify the specific stressors that are triggering the fight or flight response in your business. Isolate the areas causing the most stress, whether it’s excessive workload, financial challenges, poor time management, or ineffective systems and processes.

Delegate and outsource

Evaluate your workload and consider delegating tasks that can be handled by others. Identify areas where you can outsource certain functions or seek support from employees, contractors, or freelancers. Delegation helps distribute responsibilities and relieves some of the stress.

Prioritize and focus

Establish clear priorities and goals for your business. Break down larger objectives into smaller, actionable tasks. By focusing on what truly matters and aligning your efforts with your long-term vision, you can reduce the reactive mindset and shift towards a more proactive approach.

Create systems and processes

Develop efficient systems and processes within your business to streamline operations and reduce the likelihood of constant crisis management. Implementing systems and automating repetitive tasks can free up time and mental energy for strategic thinking and growth.

Practice self-care

Prioritize self-care to reduce stress and promote well-being. Take breaks throughout the day, engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Nurturing your physical and mental health is crucial for resilience and effective decision-making.

Seek support and guidance

Surround yourself with a support network that includes mentors, advisors, or business coaches who can provide guidance, accountability, and an outside perspective. Their insights and expertise can help you navigate challenges and develop strategies for long-term success.

Foster a positive work culture

Cultivate a positive work environment that values open communication, collaboration, and employee well-being. Encourage feedback, recognize achievements, and create opportunities for growth and professional development. A supportive work culture can help alleviate stress and foster a sense of shared purpose.

Remember that transitioning out of fight or flight mode takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and your business, and celebrate small victories along the way. By implementing these strategies, you can create a healthier and more sustainable approach to running your business.


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