The Amygdala and the Breath

I thought I woudl go a little further with our chat about the amygdala since people seem to be so much like me and really appreciate knowing WHY things happen the way they do. If you never read the first blog on the amygdala or want a refresher, you can find it here.
The Amygdala

So remember how I was saying that the amygdala is like a half on/half off switch and with almost any trigger that switch can be switched on VERY quickly? To me it feels like something happens and I have reacted before I have even had a chance to know what is going on. That is the amygdala talking to my reptilian brain and saying “FREEZE!”. For some it’s “RUN!” and for others it is “FIGHT!” but it happens before conscious thought has had time to form.  It actually doesn’t only feel like this, it can be exactly like that at times if the trigger is big enough.
TRIGGER/REACT!………. think
So how do we get that thinking brain involved? Rather than just reacting and ruining our day, how do we actively engage the thinking brain and have a chance to remind it that you are safe, you are in 2014, you are no longer living in your past?
It is actually a beautifully simple answer.
You breathe.
By the time you have taken the time for a nice, slow, deep, in through the nose and back out through the mouth breath, you have given your brain a chance to switch from its reptilian re-activeness in to a mindset where you can stop, think, and make better decisions.
Remember it was
TRIGGER/REACT!………. think
Now we are going to try
TRIGGER/breathe…… think… react
I assure you that your reaction will be a great deal more appropriate and you will feel good about yourself for not being as reactive as you once were.

It is a very simple answer but not at all easy to put in to practice when you are not accustomed to doing it.
So I will offer a suggestion here if I may?
Start by using little upsets throughout your day to practice. When someone cuts you off in traffic, the line at the store is long and you are in a rush, someone scares you accidentally, you trip and almost fall… all those little times when your reaction tends to be negative and quick.
Take that deep breath.
In through your nose nice and slow. Pay attention to it filling your lungs then release it slowly  through your mouth. If you are calmer? GREAT! If not? Try it again. You will find that your “switch” will start going back to its halfway point quicker and quicker with practice.
Eventually I hope you will start to notice what i do. My reactions come slower and slower now. I am able to take the breath and actually think most of the time. I like that because my reactions are more acceptable to me and I am happier with myself. It was a bit like this..
TRIGGER/breathe… think… react
TRIGGER…breathe… think……… react
TRIGGER…breathe… think…………… react
TRIGGER……breathe… think…………………. react
TRIGGER……breathe… think…………………………. react

I wish the same for you.

10 responses to “The Amygdala and the Breath

  1. I am definitely going to try this! My breathing is always so shallow and I need to learn to take deep breaths! ❤

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  2. Let me know how it goes for you! I was always shallow breathing too. It actually hurt when I tried to take deep breaths because I never had before.

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  3. I love this heather. very good advice too. Our therapist would love your advice. She’s trying to teach us how to deep breathe! Can I post this to my did group? Your part of it too you just joined? I think its helpful and would be helpful to the other group members. XX

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  4. I didn’t realize I had missed another great post about the amygdala! I was actually looking for the link to the first one to post on someone else’s blog when I saw this. Great post. We spent my entire last therapy session on breathing. I know it helps… hard to make a habit of though!
    Just wondering, have you learned all this through therapy or is there a book or two you’d recommend. I really like learning more about the mechanics of how the brain and PTSD work. Thanks again for a great post 🙂

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    • I learned most of this while in the hospital. I wrote several blogs about the brain, PTSD, the amygdala and such. Try putting “Amygdala” or “The brain” in to my search bar and I believe they will come up. If they don’t, I will find them for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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