Fight or Flight: Finding Emotional Balance in an Emotionally Charged World

Emotions are high, and not just in the air.

Whether you are flying at 35,000 feet or just sitting in your office when your boss is breathing down your neck, it seems like emotions are sky high these days. Emotional balance helps strengthen relationships and promotes respect in the workplace and our world, so why is it so hard to do for some people?

When times are good, it is easy for most people to find emotional balance. Usually, when people are in non-stress situations, our bodies and minds are more open to listening to different points of view, and we can take a little extra time to accommodate challenges and quirks. However, when times are tough and schedules are tight, excessive stress makes emotional balance harder to manage. Why? The acute stress response, also known as the fight or flight reaction, kicks in when the brain feels threaten. A million years ago this threat could come from a tiger ready to bounce on us to get a tasty appetizer. The flight or fight reaction would tell us whether to fight the tiger (fight) or run away (flight). In a 24×7 always connected world, the physical threat of danger is replaced by constant texts, news alerts, tight timelines, and overly scheduled calendars.

If you find yourself overly emotional here are three ideas to try and reduce the constant flight or fight response.

First, don’t let success in one area of your life mask flaws in others. When people are overly boastful or vain, they often are doing their best to hide part of their life or personality which is less than perfect. Hiding your flaws takes effort and creates unnecessary stress. It is much better to admit mistakes and make an effort to be authentic with your peers and employees.

Second, slow down to increase your emotional balance. Constantly rushing can give others the impression that you fail to plan, make decisions too quickly, or do not think through the implications of your actions. The fact is, you may not be any of these, but perception is often based on some reality. A constantly distracted person can appear disinterested in what is going on around him or her. If you find you are too busy to connect with others and slow down, it may be time to look at how you are managing your time (which leads to the third idea).

You probably have heard this before but it may be time to check-in on how you are managing your life. Do you frequently find yourself over-promising and missing deadlines or failing to prioritize then blaming others? Do you set unrealistic expectations of yourself, yet are reluctant to delegate? Do you refuse to set boundaries, yet become frustrated with interruptions and distractions? All are stressors that affect your emotional balance.

Mastering emotional balance takes practice, but the good news is that it is much easier to put your phone down and slow down to reduce stress than it is to run away from a tiger.

Christina Schlachter, PhD is the author of Managing Multiple Generations on and her current research focuses how constant information may impact the brain’s decision-making function.

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