The lower brain, at the back of the brain, is primitive, impulsive and instinctive. One of its main jobs is to keep us alive by initiating the fight or flight response when it senses danger. It does this superbly, but sometimes it will do it unnecessarily. This is how anxiety happens.
The front brain is the more sophisticated, adult part of the brain. It brings order to the instinctive, impulsive behaviour of the lower brain. It helps us to plan, consider consequences, problem solve, make decisions, exercise self-control, feel empathy, act morally, imagine and think.
When there is a strong connection between the front and back of the brain, messages will travel freely between the two. The lower brain will let us know when something doesn’t feel right, but the front brain will make sure the response is warranted and that things (and people) don’t get out of control.
When the sensations of fear or anxiety are strong, the rational, logical, calming front brain is overwhelmed. The surging of fight or flight neurochemicals sends it offline. When this happens, it isn’t able to establish whether or not there actually is danger, and it also isn’t available to help calm big feelings or plan a better response, as in one that isn’t driven by high emotion.
Dealing with anxiety in children ? what adults can do to strengthen an anxious brain. To thrive, we need to help our kids strengthen the connections horizontally ? with the logical left brain and the emotional right brain working together, and vertically ? with the rational front brain and the instinctive lower brain working together.
An important part of dealing with anxiety means not avoiding the things that feel overwhelming, but this will happen more easily when the entire brain is working together. This will mean easing the anxiety first, so the brain is more receptive to trying something new or unfamiliar.
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