You go into hyperalert mode until the threat passes, and other hormones shut down your signaling loop.
"on the watch," 1590s, from French alerte "vigilant" (17c.), from phrase à l'erte "on the watch," from Italian all'erta "to the height," from erta "lookout, high tower," noun use of fem. of erto, past participle of ergere "raise up," from Latin erigere "raise" (see erect). The adjective is attested from 1610s, the noun from 1803, and the verb from 1868. Related: Alerted; alerting.