Is Your Brain’s Stress Response Running Your Life?

The season of pumpkin spice, holidays, cooler weather and darker days can be a time of potent reflection for those ready to step into their power.

Inevitably, when you work on stepping into your power, you encounter what I call “layers”. These are layers of experiences, energies and beliefs that we have each enveloped around ourselves over time to survive.

Let’s say you’re reading a book about healing and you start to feel discomfort as you’re taking in the discussion. Where is the discomfort coming from?

It’s very likely rooted in fear that at some earlier point in your life, was there for a reason to shield you. It’s natural to have fears. But are your fears serving you?

We all experience fear

Even if we had a great upbringing, no one has reached adulthood without experiencing some kind of heartbreak and fear. Whether crushing heartbreak, to tiny little shatters here and there. No one has escaped the experience of fear.

Most of us are raised from a young age to fear, even if we have never acknowledged or recognized it. Fear of that which is other or different, fear of physical harm, fear of emotions, fear of the unknown.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with experiencing fear from time to time. But do you know at a deep personal level how much is it informing your day to day life? Is that fear still serving you? Or is it an old relic that now stands as a barrier between you and your healing, your power, your genuine self?

Let’s do some troubleshooting together, because it’s very likely that as you continue on your journey of development or healing, the following fear-based discomforts will arise, including fear of:

  • Rejection (fear of commitment)
  • Loss or lack (fear of missing out, fear of failure)
  • The unknown (fear of change, fear of death)
  • Self, past hurts
  • The present

The brain’s stress response (via connection to the amygdala) to threat when we’re young significantly amplifies a healthy response to threat, in an effort to ensure we’re never in danger again.

Of course it’s useful that our brains try to protect us. There are, in fact, real dangers sometimes in life, so we need our bodies and minds to take steps to get us out of danger.

Real versus perceived danger

That’s the rub, though. What’s real danger versus perceived danger? Of course it’s statistically possible that at any moment, something bad could happen, anyone could lose a loved one.

This is the physical world and everyone’s physical body will cease to function at some point for some reason or other. That’s just a fact.

But it also doesn’t result in a happy, joyful life, if we go around all day long consciously or subconsciously fixated on the possibility of loss.

Most of us, even those who have always considered themselves generally healthy, happy and well, likely still have those topics that make us squirm.

That make us uncomfortable. That we want to avoid.

Sometimes, that’s just a choice to take care of ourselves (e.g. choosing what media to consume, choosing to do reasonable things to take care of our health and wellbeing like eating well and staying hydrated).  

But this post is talking about those other times, when you get uncomfortable when someone talks about death, or what happens after people die, or religion, or family, or any other common thread that makes you uncomfortable.

Or when you’re reading that book about healing, psychic abilities, or other topics that raise a sense of discomfort.

What to do when you start feeling fear or discomfort

Determine the source of discomfort

Ask yourself:

  • Is there actual danger?
  • What is the thing you are doing that’s causing the discomfort?

If you’re in a household of domestic abuse, and you’re the victim, then yes, you’re in actual danger.

If you’re living in a home that is a safe, comfortable and secured home, and you’re getting uncomfortable because the book you’re reading is talking about death, you’re likely not in actual danger.

Obviously, goes without saying, if you’re in actual danger, seek the help of emergency services.

If you’re not in actual danger, continue reading.

Where is the discomfort coming from?

Use some of those other exercises I’ve shared on this blog, such as the post on feeling into your body and feeling where you are physically experiencing the discomfort

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you are absolutely feeling it physically somewhere in your body. You may never have noticed, but now start to notice where you physically feel the discomfort.

How to tackle experiences of fear or discomfort

Start meditating daily, even for a few minutes

Regular meditation reduces over-sensitive fear response, and increases cognitive and choice-based response.

This article from Scientific American’s blog explains how regular meditation shrinks the amygdala and reduces its connectivity to the brain.

That’s not actually a scary thing. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to protect yourself from danger. It simply means that the brain’s stress response reduces while the prefrontal cortex (also known as the “higher brain” where cognitive function- i.e. thinking, planning, decision-making, other executive function) increases.

Check out this other post I’ve written on setting up a regular meditation practice for yourself.

Consider doing light healing on yourself

Check out this post in which I provide a meditation with a version of light healing you can do on yourself

I also have a free guided meditation available if you subscribe, so subscribe now to get access! And if you’ve been a subscriber for awhile, check your inbox because I sent you instructions for accessing the guided meditation in October.

Get support if you need it

I’ve said it before, and let me underscore the importance of quality counselling and other professional assistance if you need it. I have benefited significantly from quality counselling, and it’s worth looking into if you are struggling.

In an upcoming post, we’ll take a broader look at how the feeling of bubbling up emotions or reactions can occur because of subconscious autoplay in our brains. It’ll look at how this is both an amazing thing and a challenge, and how to use this neurology to make more empowered, life-giving choices.


As always, I’m not endorsing these resources; they have been helpful for me and you should find what works for you.

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