Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Fear Does to Your Brain and How to Stop It

(Fattima MahdiWhether we turn on our television, scroll through our news feeds or listen to political conversations, quite often we are surrounded by messages of fear. The media does a very good job of creating a moral panic, making us scared of our world and our neighbours. Pharmaceutical companies also push messages of fear onto us. We are told to prevent ailments and illnesses by taking pills that will keep us 'healthy'. All this fear isn't good for us.

by Fattima Mahdi, August 13th, 2017

Fear is a physiological response that enables the body to prepare itself from danger. Your heart races, your muscles tense up and you go into fight-or-flight mode. You are in a heightened state of arousal and will do everything possible to keep yourself safe. 

Fear Does to the Brain 

Fear sparks a chain reaction that involves five different parts of your brain: 

Thalamus – this receives signals from your body's senses
Amygdala – triggers emotional responses
Hypothalamus – turns up adrenal glands and pumps blood to your muscles
Sensory cortex – for non life-threatening fear situations
Hippocampus – this is where memories are stored and triggers your fight or flight response 

According to research from the University of Minnesota "once the fear pathways are ramped up, the brain short-circuits more rational processing paths and reacts immediately to signals from the amygdala. When in this over-reactive state, the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way". 

Fear affects memory, perception of reality and your health. Therefore, when we are faced with so many messages of fear, we are constantly processing large amounts of negative information, which affects our psyche. People can develop anxiety, depression, fatigue and even Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The good news is that if we train ourselves, we can beat fear. 

How to stop fear 

We should try and make positive connections to the things that scare us most. We should take time to control our response to fear, so that we are not overridden with anxiety and stress every time we expect something negative to happen. In addition, perhaps we should pay less attention to the messages of fear we see around us. We should question the intentions of those trying to keep us in a perpetual state of worry and seek out our own truth. The world doesn't have to be a scary place, there is a lot out there that we can do, if we just let go of fear.

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The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Stillness in the Storm, the authors who contribute to it, or those who follow it. 

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