Joy is the ultimate fuel for your brain. You are designed to run on joy. Your brain was built to experience joy as it’s life-giving substance. Having “glad to be with you” experiences is the high-octane fuel that provides the smoothest ride for your life.
However, without joy, the brain uses a different fuel. This backup fuel source will run you ragged and never seems to be in short supply.
This fuel is fear.
How Fear Takes Over Your Brain
Fear has more impact on us psychologically and physically than most of us realize. Fear puts our amygdala in charge and sends messages throughout the body that something is not right. Sometimes we are aware of our fear, but much of the time, we are so “used to it” that it becomes our normal.
Obviously, this is a problem!
Good Reasons for Fear?
At one point in time, fear was probably put “in charge” for a reason. Maybe something bad happened to us. Maybe we saw something that was scary. Maybe we didn’t get the things we needed in life. We might have missed a basic understanding that we have been truly and completely loved from the beginning. Perhaps the brain’s order to “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” was 100% necessary.
But, is it still necessary? Is it possible that the messages that your amygdala are sending to the body and the brain are “Old news”?
Thank You, Amygdala
I can appreciate my amygdala. It has protected me well. It has fueled my life and kept me alive. However, it was never meant to be “in charge” all the time!
I recently watched the Pixar movie, Inside Out – a great “picture” for sure- and I’d like to draw from that as an example for a little bit. In the movie, when “Joy” goes missing, Fear takes over the control center of Riley’s brain. Fear “runs the show” for a while.
It’s quite obvious that fear is not equipped to run everything! Fear runs the show from a state of overwhelm and is constantly on the lookout for danger. Fear doesn’t know how to do anything different. Fear draws from the past and applies what happened long ago to everything that’s happening now. It doesn’t even notice the good things around it.
Can you imagine how exhausting it would be if Fear were always in charge? It’s not a fun thing to think of, let alone experience on a daily basis.
Do you know that you have the power to take back the driver’s seat of your brain? You are allowed to tell Fear to move over and make room for someone else to run the show.
Change Your Mind
One of the ways that we can do this is by convincing your brain that what’s in front of you right now, at this moment, is not worthy of the Code Red alert status! Our brain might react to a specific problem without us realizing it. If we can become more aware of what is going on, we can give our brain a chance to look at all the incoming data instead of the one thing scared us.
Remember, that thing that made us scared might not even be truly in the present, it might just look similar to something from the past!
Once we can stabilize the “alarm” that fear sets off, then we can decide who is in the driver’s seat AND get the proper fuel!
Here are a few ways to stabilize the nervous system so you can take back control:
1. Deep breathing exercises
Purposefully slowing down our breathing rate, requires our heart rate to decrease as well. The heart cannot race and slow down simultaneously. Deep breathing is basically three steps:
- Begin with consciously breathing into a count of two, making a point to draw that breath down into your belly instead of just up in your chest.
- Exhale to a count of three.
- Over time, as you practice this, you can slowly increase your inhale “count” to 4, 5, even up to 7.
You don’t need to worry about which number you get to, just become aware of your count and begin to work on slowing it down.
2. Use your senses
Purposefully using all five of your senses to become more aware of the existing world around you has a powerful impact on stabilizing your system. It forces your brain to get all the information it needs rather than just focusing on the issue that set the alarm off!
Engage your senses, by making some lists, either out loud or on paper.
- Start with five things you can see.
- Then four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste.
Use this image to help you remember! Print it out! Even if you can’t remember the “order”, feel free to 5,4,3,2,1 any of the senses!
Try tapping on the different points of the poly-vagal nerve as you practice self-affirming thoughts. This technique called EFT is interesting. Neither I myself nor Life Model Works are not associated or trained in EFT therapy however, the science behind it looks promising. I believe that when used in combination with talking with Immanuel it would be even more effective!
Here’s a quick breakdown
Pull out that appreciation journal and review the items you’ve written down while you were not upset. If you can connect with one or two of them, and walk yourself through the memory until you feel appreciation again. This moves fear out of the driver’s seat!
Take a walk! Go outside, soak up the sun, swing in a hammock, and engage your spirit with the beautiful world around you. Fresh air, trees, flowers, and wildlife are wonderful gifts God has given us that can actually help us calm our nervous system! Check out this study proving the benefits of being outside in nature!
6. Shalom for my body exercises
The Shalom for my body exercises that Life Model Works created for helping us to restore our Relational Circuits also reset the nervous system. Here’s a video of me doing these exercises (with one hand). For more information, schedule a session with me or join a Connexus class near you!
What do you do when you are afraid?