Stress Response
The Stress Response 
Over the past number of years a lot more has been learnt scientifically about how and why we become stressed. We now know how to interrupt and transform the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. It is my belief that we can reprograms the brain and body to act differently when under stressful situations.

The ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ Stress Response
When we experience a stressful event, negative feelings like fear, anger, anxiety and distress can enter our mind and body. In an instant our brain sends a signal to our body to go ‘on alert’ to danger to help us fight off the threat or flee to safety. We can also ‘freeze’ in a moment of total overwhelm. This is known as a UDIN moment – a moment when we experience so much trauma when it was Unexpected, Dramatic, Isolating and we had No strategy to deal with it.

The Stress Response is an inbuilt, pre-programmed survival mechanism enabling humans to react quickly to life-threatening situations. This mechanism hasn’t changed from the days when our ancestors ran away to escape Bengal tigers!

In today’s world we might not be chased down the street by a ferocious wild animal, however, there are many non-life threatening situations that can cause a flood of stress hormones into out body that over time can make us feel unwell.

How The Brain and Body React To Stress
The stress response begins in the part of the brain which contains the Amygdala, an almond-shaped mass of neurons in the mid-brain. The amygdala is constantly on the look out for threats to our safety and general well being. If we perceive a threat or danger to ourselves, the amygdala sends impulses to the autonomic nervous system that cause the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

When the Stress response has been triggered, adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream causing blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar to rise to provide the energy needed to ‘fight’ or ‘flee.’ The heart starts to pound and the muscles begin to tense. Energy is directed away from digestion and the immune system and the rational mind shuts down. This is why our mind can go blank when under stress and we react automatically to keep safe.

The Role of The Amygdala
When a person experiences an event that causes them anxiety, the amygdala directs the storage and association of that memory with anxiety. The amygdala is on the look out for potential physical and emotional threats to our safety, based on its coding of ‘past’ traumatic memories.

All of our traumatic experiences in the past are stored to help us avoid similar threatening situations in the future. When the amygdala identifies a similar potential traumatic event occurring now, our emotional response is automatic and outside our conscious thought. In an instant all the sensations and feelings of that earlier situation are brought to life and we experience them both emotionally and physically. These are flashbacks, to use an everyday term.

The danger can be real or imaginary, however the mind cannot distinguish between something that is real or imagined, but the emotional and physical response we feel still occurs. In this instance we have been triggered and the Stress Response has been set in motion.

How Our Old Programming is Triggered
From all of the research over the years it is now accepted our mind and body have been trying to keep us safe. If we take a childhood experience, one that was negative and had been stored for many years, when the amygdala is triggered by a potentially unsafe event, the old stored memory is referred to by the brain and we relive the original traumatic event. This occurs in an instant and in many cases we do not remember the original event, however the amygdala compares the new stressful event with the older one and sets off the stress response and we feel anxious. As said, this all occurs to help keep us safe. Have you ever been triggered by a tone of voice, the way someone looks at you or when in a particular situation? Chances are you have experienced a negative event when you were young and the stored memory has been re-activated on some level.

You may have had to stand up in class and recite a poem in front of your teacher and class mates and your mind went blank. That memory would have been stored and many years later when you have to give that presentation in front of your peers, once again feelings of stress and anxiety can rise up.

A present day situation can activate an old programmed response at a subconscious level, resulting in self-sabotaging and self-defeating thoughts. Often the choices we make are influenced by past events and when we experience enough negative, traumatic events over time, we can begin to feel anxious, depressed and phobic, even though consciously we know there is no real threat to our life.