On a recent episode of the What We Don't Know podcast, famed psychiatrist Mark Goulston explained the neuroscience behind stress.
"When we're under great stress, there's a chemical in our body called cortisol. It's something that our adrenal glands secrete that basically signals our body get ready cause the crap's going to hit the fan any moment.
Now what happens is that cortisol triggers the survival part of our brain, and there's a part of our brain called the amygdala. Some people have heard of something called the amygdala hijack. So when the cortisol goes high, it triggers our amygdala actually shunt blood into our lower survival brain, our fight, flight, freeze, brain, reptile, brain, and away from our being able to think.
And here's the thing, there's another hormone. Called oxytocin. That's the bonding hormone. That's what enables mothers to Vaughn their screaming infants and go without sleep for three or four days and not yell at them. And so oxytocin counteracts high cortisol. And the way we increase oxytocin is by connecting to people, feeling to feeling."
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