Have you ever wondered why you cannot make a decision when you’re feeling anxious or you feel like you cannot remember a word or think clearly when you are experiencing anxiety? Anxiety literally shuts down our higher order thinking and makes learning very difficult. There is a scientific reason for this and an explanation why you cannot make a decision when you are feeling fear and anxiety.
The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped clump of neurons deep in the center of our brain. It’s the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior and motivation. Research has shown that it plays a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. It’s the filter that leads to the prefrontal cortex. The prefontal cortex is where all of our executive functions take place. The prefrontal cortex resides at the front of the brain and acts as an “executive” for the decision making process, weaving past events to present experiences in order to make the best choices. If the filter (amygdala) is “clogged” with anxiety and fears, our executive functioning (prefrontal cortex) is shut down making it nearly impossible to make decisions, remember information or process new information.
Researchers from the Hawn Foundation have found that, “When we are calm and peaceful the filter [amygdala: an information filter regulated by our emotional state] is wide open and information flows to the prefrontal cortex, where the brain’s so-called executive functions take place. On the other hand when we are feeling negative and stressed out, these executive functions, which provide cognitive control, are inhibited. Indeed information stays in the amygdala; it doesn’t flow into the prefrontal cortex for executive processing. Instead it’s processed right on the spot as fight, flight or freeze. In this way, fear and anxiety effectively shut down higher-order thinking (Scholastic 9).” The MindUp Curriculum. [brain-focused Strategies for Learning-and Living]. New York, NY: Scholastic, 2011. Print.
Remember, you’re not stupid, incompetent or incapable of learning! Anxiety can be very debilitating and can shut us down not only emotionally, but intellectually as well. However, you do not have to live a life being controlled by anxiety. You can overcome this condition and even live an anxiety free life. There is hope. I am proof you can be in control of this condition and live a life of peace that you deserve!
Sign up for my “Be Free From Anxiety” Webinar on April 16th at 8pm EST and learn valuable information about anxiety and how to begin to live a life free from Anxiety and Panic Attacks.