Do you know why you are feeling so exhausted? Are you feeling a bit light-headed, distant, or disconnected? Despite the fact that your daily responsibilities may be lessened, your social life is cut off, and your workload is reduced, you still feel emotionally and physically drained. This is a trauma response.
We’ve all heard of the fight, flight, freeze reaction to panic and fear, and right now you’re in freeze.
When you are in a position where you are powerless and cannot fight and when you can’t run away and escape; your body is doing the only thing it can.
In a last-ditch effort at self-protection, your nervous system is shutting down and going into freeze mode.
Today we are going to talk about something called the amygdala hijack, and what to do about it. Stick around to the end because I want to also share with you something pretty cool that we have created to support you during this time.
Welcome to my podcast I’m Dr Nicole Cain, integrative mental health doctor, consultant author founder, of the ACT method, and expert in integrative approaches to anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and trauma.
You are going to learn about the wisdom of vitalistic and traditional medicine. And we are going to deconstruct the latest in alternative and complementary research. ↓
Together we will explore the terrain of the human psyche as it relates to the complex inter-weavings that impact your mental health.
I’m going to teach you how to design your life and we will explore techniques for cultivation of emotional agility ☺
If you’re ready to turn the page to the next chapter in your life… then let’s get started.
Researchers describe three primary responses to fright and trauma they are: Fight, flight, and freeze. This is also referred to as the: “amygdala hijack.” A term coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
Your amygdala is a part of the limbic system in your brain and its primary role is emotional regulation. The amygdala is also responsible for storing and processing memories of events so that you can make quick associations between past incidents and the current moment. When there is a perceived danger, your amygdala acts quickly and produces an intense emotion of fear, and coordinates a complex series of responses that is the fight, flight, or freeze response. The amygdala also shuts off your cortex so that higher-order thinking is delayed or blocked. This means your body is running on sheer autopilot. Stress hormones are being released and your body is going into survival mode.
But when you can’t fight, and you can’t run away, the only remaining option is to freeze. This causes us to feel depressed, lethargic, dissociated and powerless. What started out as panic, grows into avoidance and despair.
Studies have shown that there is a greater amygdala activation in individuals who have experienced trauma, or chronic stress, and understanding your underlying emotional wellbeing will serve as the keys towards getting your brain back under control. Even if your circumstances remain unchanged.
So what do you do? How can we prevent the amygdala hijack? What do we do when we can’t fight or flight and when our circumstances are not changeable?
It is important to do the self-work during and after a crisis. Because the way you exist during a crisis, will impact your experience going forward.
Let’s talk about affective tolerance.
Affective tolerance is the ability to tolerate or deal with an affect or emotional state. One of the main goals of Affective Tolerance is to enable us to survive crisis situations.
To aid in this process I designed what I refer to as Forcefield Strategies for Affective Tolerance. These activities will increase your resilience and give you tools to keep you strong, especially when you cannot do anything about what’s happening in the world. The Forcefield Strategies include getting enough sleep, eating nourishing food, connecting with others—even if that means only via phone or video chats. It includes moving your body and getting exercise—even if that means you do burpees in your living room. Forcefield strategies include taking your medicine and your vitamins and doing your emotional work.
Mastery tools for emotional resiliency are discussed extensively in the Anxiety Breakthrough Program, and in the time that we have remaining, I want to introduce you to four key steps for emotional resilience during a time of crisis or trauma.
(1) HOLD SPACE FOR THE EMOTION
Acknowledge out loud, in a journal, or to a loved one, the gravity of the situation. Talk about what is going on, name the emotions you are experiencing, and talk about your fears and worries. Attend to the reality of your situation AS. IT. IS.
With the COVI-19 outbreak I have gone through a cycle of anger, fear, despair and disbelief. I was storing all of that pain and emotion inside of me and I didn’t realize that I had started to shut down. I began to miss half of what my husband was saying to me, I wasn’t engaging with my puppy who still wanted to play and go on walks. I was not attuned to what was going on. My amygdala was pushing me into freeze, or “playing dead” mode. Finally, thankfully, my husband and I talked about how we were feeling. There were a lot of tears and a lot of release. Knowing I was not alone, and acknowledging how I was feeling helped so much. Even though the circumstances had not changed, my higher-order self was reclaiming her position and putting anxiety back into its place, backstage.
What do you need to express right now?
- Take a step back and without judgment, just notice the emotion coming up.
- The emotion will come in waves, just notice the waves of emotion as they ebb and flow.
- Do not suppress or block the emotion.
- Do not try to evoke or amplify the emotion.
(2) NOTICE THE BODY
- Notice where you feel the emotions in your body.
- Remember: The sensations are your body sharing information with you.
- Observe the patterns of the waves as they go through your body.
- Notice the physical sensations ebb and flow.
- Do your Somatographic Imagery exercise
(3) REMEMBER YOUR TRUTH
- Your emotions are valid.
- You are NOT your emotion.
- Your emotions DO and WILL change.
- Your emotions cannot harm you.
- Remember times where you have felt differently.
- You will get through this.
- You are not alone.
(4) RADICAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
- Radically acknowledge and accept your emotion.
- Respect your emotion.
- Refrain from judging your emotion.
- Release the need to change your emotion.
- Honor, hold the space, and then redirect.
- Literally change your location. Go somewhere else.
- Change your shoes.
- Read through this guide and work on your thought patterns.
- Phone a friend: Remember your Forcefield strategies
This podcast is dedicated to the warriors who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. We cannot thank you enough for your sacrifice. We are forever grateful and eternally in your debt.
And now for the disclaimer: The recording you just listened to consists of the personal opinions of Dr. Nicole Cain, Naturopathic Doctor, and while these opinions are based upon literature, her counseling education, medical training, and clinical experience, this content should not be viewed as the definitive opinion on the subject.
Listening to this podcast is not a substitute for any sort of medical, psychological, or another form of treatment. If you are in a crisis, please call 911, or call the national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are in need of counseling or have experienced trauma, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a local counselor in your area.
I am so passionate about people getting their life back if this resonates with you and you think this podcast would help someone you love – please share it with them.
Stay in the conversation with me about writing the next chapter of your life the way you want it.
I’ll see you next time, here’s to your next chapter.
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.