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Convert Your Stress into Courage and Connection Part II

In last week's blog I discussed how some people don’t necessarily become aggressive when stressed and instead they channeled their stress into caring for others. Why would stress lead to caring? The researchers found that we all have the “tend and befriend” response in our gut reaction basically to make sure we protect our offspring. The example they gave was to think of a mama grizzly protecting her cubs or a father pulling his son from a burning car. Even though there is stress in their lives at that moment, they will act even if their lives are at risk.

In moments of stress we need fearlessness and confidence that our actions can and will make a difference. If we are too afraid, our loved ones could get hurt. The researchers found that this “tend and befriend” response is a “biological state” designed to reduce our fear and increase our hope.

The researchers explain it best by detailing out how it affects your brain. The social care-giving system is regulated by oxytocin and when this is activated you will feel more empathy, connection and trust. This also lessens the fear centers in your brain and increases your courage.

The reward system releases dopamine and activating this system will increase your motivation while diminishing fear. When your system gets a rush of dopamine you will feel optimistic about your ability to do something and it also pumps the brain for physical action so you don’t tense up under pressure.

The attunement system is driven by serotonin and when this system is activated it enhances your perception, intuition and self control. This helps you understand what is needed in that stressful situation and that your actions will make a difference.

The moral of this is that the “tend and befriend” response makes you social, brave and smart. It gives us the capability of being courageous to do something, gives us the hope that we can do something and moves us to act skillfully to make a difference with our actions. The best part is, anytime you choose to help others you activate this state and by caring for others during a stressful time you ignite that biology of courage and hope.

Think about a time where you chose to help others during a time of great stress and how it helped you.

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