While human civilisation has changed massively over the past 200,000 years, our emotional brains have hardly changed at all. Modern mini disasters can trigger us into full-on fight or flight mode – flooding our systems with anxiety overload and leading to stress-related illnesses. Here’s how to evolve your brain to help you survive and thrive in the 21st century…
Wild animals are no longer a threat, yet our emotional brain is still so reactive, a tiff with a teammate can feel more like a tussle with a tiger. To adapt your brain for modern times, you need to train it away from red alert into soothing calm. We’ll explore some techniques to help you do this – but first, here’s an overview of how your brain works.
Your emotional brain sits at the base of your skull. It has three zones which work differently from each other:
The Danger Zone
The Danger Zone’s function is to keep you alive. When activated, it triggers your sympathetic nervous system and releases the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol, giving you a huge burst of energy. This powerful fight-or-flight function saved our ancestors from many a brush with death, but it’s only intended as a brief, temporary measure. Cortisol is an inflammatory hormone and can lead to all sorts of illnesses if it stays in your system for extended periods of time.
In the Danger Zone you feel anxious, angry, overwhelmed, fearful, defensive, egotistical, etc. It’s difficult to reason or empathise because most of your brainpower is absorbed in ‘surviving’.