[00:00:00] This is an episode from Twig's Stressless Series for getting through wildfires and other natural disasters, you can find all the episodes at stressless-guide.com.
[00:00:13] Welcome to the Stressless option.
[00:00:15] I'm Anthony Wheeler. I go by "Twig". I'm a Carlton resident and trauma specialist. I actually travel around the world talking to communities and therapists about how the stress response works and how to feel better faster after really bad stuff happens. I'm here to share some of those ideas with you and see if we can all stress a little less.
[00:00:33] I'm going to start here with a little bit of a technical conversation. This is not to be dry but to be basic for a moment. There are rules, you know, to the universe and some of them are simple and well-known. If you throw a water out of a sprinkler it's going to go up in the air and then fall down to the ground. There are also rules to our biology, to our bodies, to our organisms, and how we function in and out of what we call the Autonomic Stress Response or "the stress response." The awareness of those rules can help you and I to know how to help each other feel better faster.
[00:01:13] Let's name a few observations that could be made about these rules. One of them is that when we feel safe enough we have control over our behavior. If you and I are walking in the park and we're looking at the flowers and talking about the world around us it's all good, you know what I mean. Like we can choose which path to take. We can ramble on about this or that subject. It's all ourselves. On the other hand if we're out on this walk and there's a loud sound at the other end of the park, we're going to stop our conversation instantaneously and we're going to turn and look in the direction of that sound. Now there's a very basic reason that we do this and that is that if that sound happens to be dangerous to us we need to respond to it.
[00:02:01] We need to know that it's dangerous otherwise we might get eaten. And so there is a process through which the nervous system is constantly assessing what's in the environment, what's going on inside of us, and putting those things together to tell us "do we feel safe enough." And if so, the nervous system gives us freedom of our behavior and also a pretty decent feeling inside of our bodies.
[00:02:25] However, if that assessment says you're in danger, like "you're falling." Say, you just hit the corner of the sidewalk and now you're tripping or you just dropped a heavy boulder on out of your hands and you're jumping out of the way now or this sound is happening at the end of the park and you're involuntarily turning your head in order to look at it and to make sure that that is not dangerous to you – all of these things are elements of the stress response coming up and taking over our behavior. Now it's good that it does that right? If you drop that Boulder you want to be jumping out of the way before you have the thought "I dropped a boulder. I'm going to crush my foot." You want your nervous system to be involuntarily tracking whether or not you're safe or not. And when it notices or gets the perception that we're in danger it's going to then start to inform and influence what else we do. That's a good thing.
[00:03:29] The more danger we're in. The more the nervous system is going to control our behavior or the more involuntary our behavior will become.
[00:03:39] Now when the stress response gets elicited when we perceive that we're in danger it kind of runs through a stereotypical process. It's not unlike gravity. It has a pattern of going up and then anticipates coming back down again. The idea of coming back down again is that we're not in danger anymore so that we don't need to maintain the stress response,