Guided Meditation For Fight-Or- Flight Response

Meditation For Fight Or Flight

Recently, one of my students in my online meditation lessons asked me for a guided meditation for the “Fight or Flight response”.

You probably already know what Fight Or Flight feels like. It’s that stressed feeling when your sympathetic nervous system kicks in as an automatic physiological reaction. It feels like an intense reaction, like your blood is boiling. It’s also a core part of many types of anxiety disorders [Read: Meditation For Anxiety].

If you experience fight-or-flight regularly, you probably want to reduce it. Heck, when I personally use to suffer from fight-or-flight it made me heart pound so badly I’d feel dizzy. But thankfully, we can reduce the times this happens.

I say “reduce” because we actually need the fight or flight response for times when we, well, need to fight or flight. Such occasions do indeed happen. Ask anyone who has even been in a fire. Yes, those occurrences happen… about one thousandth of the time that we experience the condition. So, what we truly want is to stop fight or flight all the times it is unnecessary. And meditation can help.

With meditation we train the mind to react less intensely. We do this when we are calm, not when we are currently having a panic attack. Why? Well, mmeditating during fight or flight is nye on impossible for all but monks. The reason is that when you experience fight or flight you also experience a quickening of thoughts and get hyper focused on whatever it is that is stressing you out.

Meditating during fight or flight is virtually impossible, so instead we need to train the mind to have more control while we are calm. Then, we will experience less episode of fight or flight to begin with. And at the same time, because we will be increasing our self awareness, we will also have more control at those times when we do get fight or flight.

Let me show you one of my best guided meditations for fight or flight that I teach in my meditation lessons. And then we will discuss the science and I’ll share some tips.

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Guided Meditation For Fight Or Flight

The following is a great guided meditation for fight or flight. I’d like to mention for my students that this method is based on three of our traditional meditations, Anapanasati, Vipassana, and Effortless Presence (Open Monitoring).

  1. We want to start by sitting comfortably or lying down. Either way, make sure you have good posture and a straight spine because this will help you to focus.
  2. As usual, we will go ahead and close our eyes. Let’s take a deep breath in through the nose to a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Breathe out through the mouth to a count of four. And again, hold for a count of four. Repeat.
  3. Focus your awareness of the feeling of your breath moving through your nose, down into your diaphragm, and back out. Continue to focus in this way.
  4. Naturally, thoughts and feelings will come to mind. It’s how we handle those thoughts and feelings that matters. What you want to do is observe your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Don’t attach to them or fight them. Just observe them, and let them come and go. At the same time, label them, just by saying “This is a thought” or “This is a feeling”. This will train your mind to be less reactive to thoughts and feelings, which is essential when using meditation for fight or flight.
  5. Next we need to train the mind to be nonreactive to physical sensations. Usually in fight-or-flight we interpret bodily signals like a tension in the chest to mean that something is wrong. We don’t want to do that. Instead, when you experience a physical sensation, say to yourself, “This is just a physical sensation, nothing more”.
  6. After a short while, you will begin to feel peaceful. When this happens, focus your mind on the feeling of inner peace. Allow that peacefulness to wash over you. And stay here for as long as you like. The more you acquaint your mind with the feeling of peace, the more you will be able to reproduce that feeling of peace when you need it.

How Meditation Helps with Fight or Flight

Research shows that meditation can reduce the Fight-Flight-Freeze response, and to many this will come as no surprise. After all, the fight or flight response is largely a stress response, and most of us are already aware of the effect of meditation on stress.

Studies using skin conductance (how well our skin transmits electricity) shows that when we are stressed we get salty and salty increases electric conductivity. Hence, fight-or-flight makes your skin more conductive. Even a short meditation session, however, reduces conductivity according to a 2009 study. Hence, meditation reduces fight or flight.

Meditation also has a wonderfully positive effect on the heart. A 2017 meta-analysis of 45 individual individual randomized control trials showed that meditation reduces blood pressure and improves heart health.

And so, meditation positively influences the physiological factors involved in the fight-or-flight response.

As a meditation teacher, I personally find it fascinating how different types of meditation yield different benefits. You might like to know what types of meditation to use for fight or flight response. In my experience (and from my years of both study and practice) I’ve found that the best meditations to reduce fight or flight are Body Scan meditation (progressively bringing awareness to different parts of the body), Anapanasati (Mindful Breathing), Open Awareness (opening the mind to the entirety of our surrounding) and for beginners, guided meditation (mostly because it is the most accessible method).

One particular meditation that I want to suggest to you is Vipassana. This is a method in which we meditate on the breath and then label our thoughts and feelings. This makes us less reactive to thoughts and feelings, which in turn helps with fight-or-flight because our thoughts and our feelings are often the real cause of panic.

That said, certainly the vast majority of meditations will help with fight or flight because meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).


Both science and personal experience show that meditation can have a wonderfully positive effect on fight-or-flight, both by reducing both its frequency and its intensity. The best meditations for this are Body Scan, mindful breathing, Vipassana, and Open Monitoring.

Guided Meditation Playlist

By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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