Is Your Body Stuck In Stress Response Cycle?

donnagatesSurvival is our most primitive instinct. It pushes us onward in the face of obstacles, danger, loneliness, and heartbreak. Survival drives us to seek stable sources of shelter, food and water.

While the will to survive is a blessing, sometimes we can get trapped into a survival pattern. Commonly called survival mode, these patterns lock us into painful mental and emotional states, such as rage, worry, or sorrow.

When we are locked in survival patterns, mental programs tell us that who we are or what we love isn’t safe. We sometimes run these programs every waking hour of the day.

Dramatic life changes can move us into survival mode. This is when we do what we can just to get through the day. These changes can include:
– A change of jobs
– The loss of a friendship or relationship
– Moving to a new town
– The passing of a loved one
– Financial struggle
– Recovery from addiction

When we live in survival mode, we are run by fight-or-flight hormones that tell us to either stand our ground and get angry or to flee. These hormones create a shift in your body. They shut down digestive function. They weaken the immune system. They make the body more vulnerable to infection. Over time, these stress hormones also drain the adrenals, which are like little batteries that sit on top of the kidneys and modulate stress.

Fight-or-flight hormones do not only drain your physical body. They can also distort or severely deplete your mental and spiritual bodies. Fight or flight hormones change your outer reality as much as they change your inner landscape.

The trick to managing stress hormones and survival patterning is not to run away from them. What we run away from often contains a lesson; and these lessons have a way of finding us over and over again—until we learn.

When you find yourself at ground zero, the trick is to accept where you are and to build. When you do this, real change is possible.

One question I like to ask myself, “What do I need to feel safe? What are my boundaries?” You can go through every area of your life, including work, relationships, and even your fitness routine to define these limits for yourself.

As you build up from ground zero and shake off survival patterning, be sure to take extra care of your adrenals, the small glands that pump out stress hormones.

You can rebuild your adrenal energy by choosing to eat nutrient-dense fermented foods, like cultured vegetables and fermented spirulina, and by staying away from foods that provoke inflammation. Getting a full night’s rest and eating regularly throughout the day will also help to give your body the strength that it needs to move out of survival mode.

What do you need to feel safe? What are your boundaries? Please share in the comments below, your examples may help others.




Are you not living to your potential? Do you have health problems that you can’t seem to find the right answers for resolving? Take the Candida quiz as well as learn more about the Body Ecology Diet, download recipes, and receive a FREE Quick Start Guide and audios on detoxification/weight loss, visit

Donna Gates, bestselling author of The Body Ecology Diet and The Body Ecology Guide to Growing Younger, is on a mission to change the way the world eats. Over the past 25 years, she has become one of the most beloved and respected authorities in the field of digestive health, diet and nutrition, enjoying a worldwide reputation as an expert in candida, adrenal fatigue, autism, autoimmune diseases, weight loss and anti-aging.

  • Angela

    Awesome post! Finally,someone who understands adrenal fatigue! Can you please post additional resources for being stuck on this rollercoaster! Thanks!

  • Jackie

    Thanks for the wonderful post. Currently, I am stuck in a stress response cycle and I have reached my breaking point. This is a great first step in trying to break the cycle and live to my fullest potential.

  • Ann

    Great article! Thank you! I just ended my engagement to a man with an addiction to alcohol and prescribed pain medication. He was self medicating both a childhood hip disease and issues of child abuse that he never received counseling for. While my heart goes out to him, I knew he was pulling me down by venting his anger at me that he has repressed for years. I became depressed and very down about all the verbal abuse I’ve put up with. Reading inspirational articles like this helps me keep things in perspective.

    • Caroline

      Ann reading comments like yours which demonstrate such courage and strength remind me to be brave about the issues I face in my life. Congratulations for putting your life and happiness first!