Episode 85: How Long-Term Fear Affects Your Brain

Game On Girlfriend Ep85

“As we grow ourselves, we start to become less influenced by the negativity around us.”

You guys, so many people are living in fear right now. And I almost don’t want to talk about it, because I love bringing you positive solutions to tough stuff. 

So, with that in mind, we’re going to talk about what’s really going on and what the real effects are, but I’ll also give you concrete ways to protect yourself and those you love.

In this episode, I’ll talk about how fear affects the brain and the body and what you can do about it, starting right now.

We’ll talk about the amygdala — two little almond-shaped clusters of cells located near the base of the brain — and what happens to them when we remain scared or stressed for long periods of time.

The amygdala is where our emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responses to them. In essence, it creates our emotional memories.

I love empowering you with the science behind these things because it gives us a solid jumping-off point.

So, over time, fear affects how we think.

The brain short-circuits more rational processing paths, as the brain reacts immediately to signals from the amygdala, instead of more rational processing.

When in this overactive state — sometimes called “the amygdala hijack” — the brain perceives events as negative and remembers them that way. 

This is why you can be walking down the street and smell something, or feel the weather shift, and BAM! A memory comes flooding back.

The brain stores all the details surrounding the danger — the sights, sounds, odors, time of day, weather, you name it.

But we want to make sure we’re aware of how our brains and bodies are reacting to a long-term exposure to anxiety and stress.

Why? Well, because a larger amygdala and less rational thought aren’t the only things that can happen over time.

Long-term anxiety also affects:

  1. Physical health. Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility.
  2. Memory. Fear can impair the formation of long-term memories and cause damage to certain parts of the brain. This can make it even more difficult to regulate fear and can leave a person anxious most of the time. 
  3. Brain processing and reactivity. As I discuss in this episode, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our thinking and decision-making.
  4. Mental health. Other consequences of long-term fear include fatigue, clinical depression, and PTSD.

    

You have so much to give this world and so many things you can offer — staying in a state of fear isn’t going to help.

As you listen to this episode, I hope you’ll take on my challenge to support your ongoing growth. It comes in right near the end. 😉

If you’d like to check out my Quarterly Sprints and apply to join us in our next round, click here

So, pop in those earphones and take a listen!

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