How the Nervous System Reacts to Danger

Our body has a built-in response called "fight-or-flight" when we face danger. It makes our heart race, our breathing speed up, and sharpens our senses to help us react quickly. This response is essential for protecting us – just imagine living without it!

In today's world, this response often activates for stressors like work deadlines or social situations that don't need such intense reactions. This can lead to our body and brain trying to protect us from day-to-day situations in unhelpful way - like an overly sensitive smoke detector that goes off every time you boil a pot of water – so annoying!

When someone experiences trauma, this can cause their alarm system to be on alert all the time. Our brain is trying to protect us for good reason, but even small things might feel like huge threats. Understanding these reactions—whether they're due to everyday stress or past trauma—can help us manage them better. 

Normalizing and Understanding Anxiety 

It’s important to see this response as normal—it’s just the body doing its best to keep us safe. If you’ve been bitten by a snake before, it makes sense that just seeing a video of a snake might make your heart pound, even if you’re safe in your home. 

When these reactions are more intense than the situation calls for, they can cause stress, make it hard to function, and even get in the way of our relationships.

Maybe we all have our own version of the snake we react to, but knowing this is part of treatment that can help us manage better. 

Ways to Treat Anxiety 

Treatment can start with a few approaches to heal the nervous system, change your relationship with anxiety, and begin to expand your comfort zone to allow you to live differently. This includes:  

  • Physical grounding: Our bodies don’t speak the same language as our brains, and we can’t think our body into feeling safe. Learning to be mindfully present in your surroundings and having a toolbox of soothing strategies like deep breathing, using movement or connecting with the senses can signal to your nervous system there isn’t a threat.  
  • Externalizing Anxiety: Thinking of anxiety as something outside of yourself helps you manage it better. It’s not who you are; it’s just something you’re dealing with. 
  • Learning Anxiety’s Tricks: Anxiety can trick us into thinking that things are worse than they really are. Therapy helps reveal these tricks and take a step back, letting us see situations more clearly. 
  • Allowing Anxiety to Show up Without Taking Over: Part of therapy is learning to accept anxiety without letting it control you. This means recognizing your anxious thoughts and feelings but not letting them run your life. The less you do what anxiety wants you to, the less power it has over you.  
  • Facing Fears in a Safer Place: Therapy often involves facing your fears in a safe and supportive setting, and eventually out in the real world. This can help teach your nervous system what is and isn’t a threat, expanding your comfort zone.

At Calm Harbour Counselling, we offer a supportive environment where you can explore treatment tailored to your unique experiences using techniques from approaches like Narrative Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Accelerated Resolution Therapy. 

Our compassionate therapists are here to help you break the cycle by understanding and adjusting your body’s reactions to stress and trauma. Let us walk with you towards a life where the storms feel more manageable, and you feel more at peace.  

Angela Dore

Angela Dore

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