Bruce Perry writes that our body uses neural networks to manage and process stress. Stress is a demand on one or more of our body’s physiological systems. Hunger, thirst, cold, exercise and even getting excited are all stressors. Stress is central to learning, developing new skills and building resilience. When stress is unpredictable, extreme or prolonged it is damaging as it sensitises our stress systems and makes us vulnerable. However, when it is moderate, controllable and predictable it is ‘good’ stress that helps us grow.
We have core regulatory networks (CRNs) which are neural systems that originate in the lower part of the brain and spread throughout the rest of the brain. They work together to keep us regulated in the face of stress and challenge. These networks influence all functions, including thinking and the body – having an impact on the heart, lungs, the stomach and more. They try to keep everything in balance – the whole system regulated.