There have been times in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve been “shutting down”. Where I’m fighting to “keep my head above water” and I can literally feel myself withdrawing emotionally and mentally.
When that’s happens those parts of me that are creative, expressive and enable me to communicate and “be visible” to those around me start to diminish and retreat. Much like a turtle inside their shell. I call it “the shut down” because I know I am shutting down inside as a defence and protective mechanism.
The “shut down” is a response to stressful and difficult situations. It enables us to keep “functioning” on the outside, doing the bare minimum so as not to drain any coping resources.
When we are in “shut down mode” it’s not ever who we really are. But sometimes people can be in shut down for so long they forget what it feels like to be different and to remember who they truly are. They never come out of their shell and are in a constant heightened state of being under threat.
“The Shut Down” happens because there’s a small part of our brain called the amygdala that thinks there’s something it needs to protect us from. It switches on when it thinks we’re in danger, similar to a personal body guard for our brain. It’s there to protect us. It’s job is to get us ready to run away from danger or fight it – called ‘fight or flight’. If our amygdala thinks there’s trouble, it will immediately give our body what it needs to be strong, fast and powerful. It will flood our body with oxygen, hormones and adrenaline that our body can use as fuel to power our muscles to run away or fight.
The effects of fight or flight don’t only occur in our brains, as our bodies are physically affected by this state as well, especially when it’s prolonged. Because our bodies want to use all of our available energy for fighting or fleeing, they stop other energy-spending processes like digestion. That’s why we can feel sick during or after high-stress situations.
You’ve probably felt how fast your heartbeat can get during stressful situations. Our fast heartbeat actually sends a signal to our brains’ prefrontal cortex – the part that handles thought processing and decision making. The signal tells this part of our brain to shut down temporarily and lets our midbrain take over. When we’re in this state, instinct and training take over from rational thought and reasoning.
The thing to remember in all of this physiology is that God created us and He knew what we would need to live. He knew we would at times need to respond quickly, to be on the defence in a dangerous situation, or be able to run. He created us to be able to handle and overcome situations in life.
It’s when things get out of balance in our lives and where we are in constant anxiety and stress, that what God has created for good starts to be unproductive. But we can do something about it for we don’t have to just “keep our heads above water”, we don’t have to live in “fight or flight”, or the subsequent “shut down mode”.
That’s not what God wants for us for He wants us to live balanced, burden free lives where we have fun and enjoy all that He has given us. He says, “Don’t be anxious, “Don’t be always shutting down to protect yourself or in fear. With me you can overcome this.”
God promises us, “that He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29)
Being self-aware and dealing with stressors in our lives is a helpful first step in staying out of the “shut down mode”. It means being aware of how we are feeling and understanding when we may be feeling over stressed or anxious and taking the necessary steps to limit these things taking over in our lives.
Today I encourage you to take some time to deal with the stressors in your life and to cast all your cares upon Jesus, to choose to hold onto the promises in His Word, to prosper your soul by doing something you love and determine to take care of yourself so that you are continually building your strength and maintaining balance and freedom in your life.
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you”. (Psalm 32:8 NLT)
“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. (Isaiah 55:2)
Prayer: Lord I don’t want to live in a state of anxiety and in “shut down mode” all the time. Please help me to deal with those things that cause me anxiety and stress and that I will strengthen myself in your Word, in time spent with you and in doing those things that prosper my soul today. In Jesus name Amen.