From Fear, fight or flight to Free

fight the fear kara o’donnell wellness midleton holistic centre

I had the realisation lately that for a good portion of my life I was running in fight or flight mode. When I met Peggy Frahill for meditation a few years ago, the first thing I asked her ‘was can you tell me what you do the minute you open your eyes in the morning’ because I just recognised at that time I was actually waking up every morning in fight or flight, straight into what could I worry about. I think being a Mum probably exasperated this, just always being ‘on’ in protection mode, but really as far back as I can remember it was there. Very long story short through a little work regularly in a lot of different areas, I’m feeling like a very different person these days, calm, stress free (mostly!), free, at peace and enjoying life to the full.

Across the board, fear, fight or flight is something we are all experience far too often these days. Fear is the brains way of protecting us of course, when we feel fear, we then have a reaction to that fear, generally termed ‘fight or flight’. Take the scenario where you’re standing in a field wearing a lovely red t-shirt and you spot a huge bull at the other side of the field. Fear sets in, as it should. Then we react, we are either going to fight that bull (not recommended), or we are going to run away as fast as our little legs will carry us (probably your best option at this point!) So, at this moment in the body lots of cortisol and adrenaline are released and the body prioritises all sorts of physical processes essential to getting you out of there, you’ll be able to see better, hear better, run faster, increased power, strength etc. Also in this moment the body is going to de-prioritise things like digestion, immunity, healing as they aren’t so helpful right now.

So, in your mad dash racing away from the bull you use up all that cortisol and adrenaline, extra glucose etc and things return to normal shortly afterwards. So, this is what we are designed for a short, rare bursts or stress where our body is allowed plenty of time in between to recover. So, the problem lies herein…. these physical reactions are all very helpful but what if the very same thing happens when you’re stuck in traffic in the morning, or you get frustrated with the kids, or have a fight with your partner or a run in with your boss or watch a scary movie or encounter a negative person? You’re sitting in your car or at your desk, you’re not running anywhere so none of those stress hormones get used up, add to that you might rerun it over and over in your head so you’re recreating the stress over and over and add to that maybe you’re in the middle of your lunch at that time, so you literally cannot digest it because digestion has been shut down in the fight or flight state. Stress is the biggest issue for health these days. being stuck all the time in fight or flight makes for a continuous stream of stress hormones which is making us sick. our natural state is to feel calm and peace and not stressed most of the time. But we have the choice to allow something to be stressful or not, life is 5% what happens to us and 95% what we do about it.

fight the fear kara o’donnell wellness midleton holistic centre

So how do we deal with it? Well after years of continuous stress (a lot of it created by myself), anxiety & even panic attacks I finally can say I feel free of it. A combination of a whole lots of work on myself, looking after my nutrition, breathwork, meditation, grounding, lighter exercise regime, counselling, coaching and generally just putting a new focus on selfcare and self-honouring has really helped me. But really the awareness that there are 4 pillars of health, and we have to look after all of them: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Any symptom we are dealing with is the body trying to tell us something; somethings not right, somethings not dealt with, it’s in need of something, its being clogged up with something, there are so many factors that could be complicating our health. In my experience when I really broke it down, I was actually doing things on a daily basis that were getting in the way of my own health. Examples like doing too much, not managing stress, allowing negative thoughts, fuelling my body in the wrong way caused years of gut issues, blood sugar imbalance, inflammation and a host of health issues. But sometimes things are so all over the place it’s difficult to know what’s going on or where to start, it can be a great call to get a bit of support at this point. Nutritional therapy is a look at all aspects of health in a one-to-one setting where there’s 1-1.5 hours to really talk through your personal situation and there’s the support there after to help you along the journey. I would love to help if you need it, I am passionate about helping people to feel better and be able to reach their full potential with personalised diet & lifestyle improvements.

Initially myself I began to make small changes to nutrition and reducing my stress, things started to become a little clearer, I could suddenly start to tune in better to what felt right or wrong for me. This brought the trust in self and motivation to make more small changes, adding little daily practices like grounding and gratitude lists really started to lift my energy and mood and again made me want to do more.

fight the fear kara o’donnell wellness midleton holistic centre

Adapting my exercise to a more holistic approach of activities which move my body but also light me up and make me feel joy or return me to a more childlike fun and getting me closer to nature, dipping in the sea or running in forest or beach, stretching barefoot on the grass. Counselling and more recently life coaching have really helped to identify old conditioning, trauma etc which was getting in my way. At this point fear has been replaced with freedom and that brings such empowerment and sense of self which feels great.

The right support has been second to none, to be able to talk through things, make sense of things, have time to sit with something and not try and push it down, the feeling the feelings and realising that freedom is at the other side of that place where you just really want to run away and distract yourself but instead sitting with it gets you past it much quicker, but finding that support is important, feel free to drop me a line if you need any help with this.

Over the years I’ve cleaned up my nutrition, things that were really going against me at the time were having an imbalanced blood sugar, as a result of too much carbs and not enough protein, too much coffee played havoc with my mood and energy ‘a little cup of anxiety’, not enough plant foods left my body & brain deficient of various nutrients, I had some intolerances going on and as a result IBS so that of course was impacting my anxiety also. Over training & personal stress led to adrenal fatigue so I really had to take stock & make some changes. So I tackled all these and really feel the benefit these days. I make a priority of avoiding stress & really consciously am always trying to keep my body & brain calm & positive. Being in fight or flight all the time really effects our whole endocrine (hormone) system putting it out of balance, this in turn can effect anything hormone driven; mood, sleep, cycle, menopause. The best skill we can learn to mind our health is calming the mind which calms the nervous system, consciously taking ourselves out of fight or flight whenever possible.

Some ways to calm the mind are breathwork, meditation, cold water therapy, but also positive psychology, managing our mind is a big one, we are not supposed to be a slave to our thoughts, they are very useful of course for us to create or to try and protect us but we must manage them, we have a choice to run with a particular thought or not, so if a negative thought comes in we can switch that thought to a more positive one, this definitely takes practice and feels a bit like gym for the mind but the results are amazing. Gratitude is a good approach here, its shown to not be physically possible to be stressed and grateful at the same time, perfect, coz we all have something to be grateful for; even just our sight or the breath in our lungs, anything. Imagine very negative thought has a physical reaction in the body, a release of those stress hormones, so the thoughts themselves are keeping us stuck all the time in fight or flight.

fight the fear kara o’donnell wellness midleton holistic centre

Tiny improvements in lots of areas can add up to a whole lot of change in time. Of course on the nutrition side of things, increasing plant foods is going to feed a healthy gut, balance blood sugar & reduce inflammation. Real easy ones for everyone would be reducing coffee & sugar and processed foods & alcohol, lots of good natural healthy colourful foods. On lifestyle there’s huge calming benefit in getting in touch with nature regularly, grounding bare feet on the grass is a great one or a sea dip or cold shower has great benefits for mood. Peggys meditation zoom class has literally been life changing for me, her advice to me that re a good practice for first thing in the morning was simply to say thank you, thank you for being here another day, thank you for the bed and being mindful in every moment of your morning routine, feeling the water in your shower, tasting the food in your breakfast, being completely in the moment and continuing that through your day.

Feel free to contact me for support or recommendations in any of the above.

Kara x

fight the fear kara o’donnell wellness midleton holistic centre