Mammalian Caregiving and how it helps us

I was reminded this week of how unpleasant it is when my reptile brain flips into the Stress Response of fight-or-flight.

It happens when we feel threatened, unsafe or even criticized.

In my case – depending on the severity, my heart races, my throat gets dry, sometimes I can’t see properly or my voice gets loud, and I will often get the shakes.



It’s not just an external trigger: did you know that you can trigger your own stress response from self-criticism?


It’s the effect of cortisol and adrenaline that’s being released in an effort to help protect ourselves. And the true underlying problem of this stress, is the multitude of health and mental conditions triggered by these kind of hormones.

So lately I’ve been taking comfort in the fact that we are actually mammals. Not reptiles.



Mammals include the largest animals on the planet, as well as some of the most intelligent. We also nurse our young and (most of us) carry our young in a placenta until born.


I’m pleased to report that one of the many great things about being a mammal is the Mammalian Caregiving Response.



It evolved from our young being born so early in their development – and babies having to rely on the nurturing of their parents to reach maturity.


Over the centuries, this has left us with a biological part of us that is wired to respond positively to caregiving: soft touch, soothing voice, kindness and calm nurturing energy.

Kindness feels so good because it releases the relaxing hormones of oxytocin and opiates – which are the opposites of fight-or-flight. It puts us in a relaxed state, which means that we feel safe and comfortable enough to grow and thrive.

And the truly great news about the Mammalian Caregiving Response?

We don’t have to wait for someone else to be loving towards us, we can trigger it ourselves.

By changing the way we nurture ourselves; through gentle self-talk, soft touch and self-kindness, we become our own caregiver and feel safe and supported enough to live our best life.




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