Stress: It’s Not in Your Head, it’s in Your Nervous System – by Melody Walford

Have you ever been told when you’re stressed to stop worrying and just relax? That it’s all in your head? It would be nice if it were that simple. But it’s not.

Physiology research shows that the stress response memory lives in your nervous system. Take for example exposure to a stressful event. One in which you felt helpless, hopeless, and lacked control. In this case your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is engaged. This is the part of the nervous system responsible for controlling unconscious bodily actions like breathing. To be more specific, it was the sympathetic branch (fight or flight) of the ANS that kicked in while you were strained. In addition, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the midbrain began firing. In which a signal from your hypothalamus sends a hormonal message to your pituitary gland that stimulates to your adrenal glands.


Your brain’s ability to collect, connect, and create mosaics from these milliseconds-long impressions is the basis of every memory. By extension, it is the basis of you. This isn’t just metaphysical poetics. Every sensory experience triggers changes in the molecules of your neurons, reshaping the way they connect to one another. That means your brain is literally made of memories, and memories constantly remake your brain. This framework for memory dates back decades. And a sprawling new review published today in Neuron adds an even finer point: Memory exists because your brain’s molecules, cells, and synapses can tell time.

I can feel a complete difference in my brain chemistry and have noticed I process things more rationally. My old memories seem distant, as if properly put to bed. Significantly I am better able to react and process things in my life. I am able to get myself organized. Pieces of my puzzles have begun falling into place. I am less likely to get triggered and I feel a physical ease of pressure in the front part of my head. I can tell there was a shift. I feel a lot of my old self coming back: more collected and positive. I would absolutely 100% do another session!

Emily L.

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art image of monkey on top of person's head