Pause, Breathe, Evaluate, Plan, Move

We are the generation of stress.  Hans Selye gave it a name and description  He taught us about fight or flight then freeze was added.  Taught us about the reptilian brain otherwise known as the amygdala*.  Unfortunately, few people read his original work any more.  Layers and layers of connotation were added to his definition of what he observed as a reaction to alarming events.  English was not his first language and some misunderstandings occurred and stuck around.  Today we would not have a name for PTSD without stress.  The response would exist just no name for it.  I spent most of my life not knowing that I was battling PTSD.  However, I learned a few things.  In today’s culture, plenty is talked about stress and what I call the F triad – Fight, Flight or Freeze.  Few people talk about how to override these automatic reactions.  I came across the idea in several different places.  I’ll try to see if I can find links but I will share what I have distilled from all the suggestions.

Pause – I like the word pause because it implies temporary and not a permanent state.  Hold off reactions time and get my reaction out of the amygdala and back into the thinking part of my brain. 

Breathe – From yoga and other sources I am learning the power of breathing and allowing our bodies to participate in relaxing.  Drop my shoulder, lift my head, breathe from the belly.  Slow down my breathing.  (Did you know that a 10% increase in oxygen can cause hyperventilation with a whole host of symptoms?  That is why I work at slowing down my breathing.)

Evaluate – What is the problem? Who’s problem is it?  Do I need to solve it?  What are the options? This step gets me to step back from knee jerk automatic reactions.  If I am being attacked this step best be very quick but most stress sources I have time to evaluate.  I notice one of the tactics of abusers is attempting to force a quick reaction without this evaluation step. 

Plan – I separate evaluating and planning.  Evaluating is observing and defining the situation whereas creating a plan is mapping out what to do after the problem is defined.   If at the evaluation step, I realize it is not my problem to solve then there is no need to get to this step. 

Move –  I prefer the word move over act because acting can imply pretending like an actor in a movie.  Move may be a baby step….falling flat on my face is also moving.  Too often I make these huge overwhelming plans and telling myself to move implies I don’t have to do an entire marathon, just get off the starting line. 


The power of being human with this wonderful brain of ours is being able to carry out these steps over and over again.  Like the directions for washing my hair do all these things and repeat. The horror of PTSD is the enemy moved inside my head and I am fighting a battle no one else can see.  It takes lots and lots of practice to make these steps a habit. 


* Amygdala and how it functions

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