It is interesting to watch the effect of heightened fear anxiety and stress on human behaviour. The neuroscience behind this lies deep within our brains!
Understanding the brain
There are two key areas that are utilised in your brain when considering your thoughts, actions and behaviour.
One area is known as our ‘executive centre’- our pre-frontal cortex. This area, when functioning well and lit up, ensures that we take a ‘big picture’ approach to make clear decisions. It also encompasses the elements of empathy, compassion and ensures we are working together with our neighbours, our family and our community for the greater good. Our pre-frontal cortex is essential in mastering inspired action as well as building problem-solving skills with calm clarity. When functioning well it prevents us from falling into lopsided judgements and opinions, and ensures we remain calm and centred, able to see all sides. It creates a ‘we’ approach to decisions, ensuring we work together as a unified collaborative team.
There is another area in our brain called our amygdala. This is also known as our “fear or stress” centre. This centre is designed to protect you against incoming or perceived threat. It is an essential part of our make-up and forms a very important function for simple activities, like crossing the road! Our fear centre will light up to alert us if it perceives any incoming threat such as a nearby stick that might look like a snake. In this scenario, our brains amygdala will alert you the incoming perceived threat (such as seeing a snake), however that alert trigger may not be very accurate (the snake may actually be a stick!). This centre is a very quick ‘threat detection’ centre, however can be low in accuracy!
Once our fear/stress centre is triggered and lights up in the brain, it creates a cascade of events in our body called the stress response that involves our entire sympathetic nervous system. Our fear centre can become triggered by perceived threat or danger and also by uncertainty. The result of this alert system in our bodies physiology includes increased heart rate, increase blood pressure, increased muscle tension and a reduction in our functions such as our immune, digestive and reproductive function. You can read more about the stress response here!
This cascade is essential to run from any perceived threat or predator (such as a snake), which can be very useful sometimes! However, if this centre is firing for a prolonged period of time, such as in times of prolonged stress or anxiety, it can have a detrimental effect on our health including our immune system, our reproductive function and our blood pressure.
The other downside of having this fear centre of the brain firing for prolonged periods, is it diminishes the function of our pre-frontal cortex!
Watch this short explainer video here
These two areas in the brain work a little bit like a seesaw. When our fear centre is lights up, our capacity to make open-minded, big picture, clear, concise and problem-solving decisions suddenly diminishes, (and soon we find ourselves fighting for toilet paper in the supermarket!)
Our thoughts, actions and behaviours are all formed from the internal state of our brain centre. When the fear centre takes over, our executive centre function reduces, resulting in hasty lopsided decisions and a ‘me vs you’ approach to behaviour.
How to resolve this.
There are simple actions you can take to minimise the prolonged effect of your fear based centre in your own brain and improve the function of your pre-frontal cortex or executive centre! If your thoughts, actions and behaviours start with the governing state of your brain, it pays to learn how to master it.
Simple actions can include:
- Slow low belly breathing and lengthening the exhalation
- Pause for a moment and simply name how you feel in one or two words
- Mindfulness meditation- like to learn? Find out more here
- Holding compassion for your neighbours.
- Recalling something that makes you grateful and holding gratitude in your heart
- Pausing before acting! Remember the fear centre is quick to jump to conclusions. Simply pausing to allow the executive centre to catch up can contributes to inspired action rather than habitual reaction
- Seeing all sides. Find the hidden positives in difficult situations. With every crisis there is a blessing and if we can only see negatives we are simply blind to the hidden balance. Without seeing all sides, we sink into lopsided judgement leaving us with resentment, fear and anger governing our thoughts, actions and behaviours. Make a list of all you have or can gain from a difficult time.
- Likewise, only seeing positives creates infatuation (this is blind to the negatives!) which is never sustainable!
For every event and situation there is a balance of positive and negative. If we are open to seeing all sides, all opportunities, we can then rise into grace and our executive centre starts to govern our thoughts, actions and behaviours with both compassion and clarity
Are you interested in learning more? This information is shared with the gathered experience and qualifications of Nichole Hamilton as a qualified Dr Demartini facilitator. Find out more about Dr Demartini here.
This work can help you manage stress, overcome life’s obstacles and learn more about managing your own thoughts, actions and behaviours in order rise into an inspired state and reach your full potential.
Nichole brings her Demartini one on one consultations to Synergy Physio. Contact our friendly reception team on 07 5448 3369 for questions and appointments.
Contact us today on 07 5448 3369