While the idea of having a comfort zone isn't exactly novel, we can expand that idea when we talk about environmental triggers (things that set off immediate red flags in our minds). One way to more effectively describe overwhelming triggers and their impacts on our behaviors is the "window of tolerance" in which we most effectively function and perform. This is where our A-game fight emerges.
It seems like an intellectual debate of semantics, but I hope more people understand that a stress response isn't strictly "fight or flight." For a very long time, I misunderstood the concept to mean that we're either literally fleeing or fighting, and I missed a crucial part of my own diagnosis: I experience disassociation. Under certain conditions, I'm freezing and fatiguing. I experience hypoarousal, a side of PTSD that doesn't have the same dramatized, Hollywood effect as seeing someone rage-destroy their immediate environment.
The important thing to realize is that we all experience stress, but PTSD/anxiety disorders are much more complex than experiencing stress. These responses occur on a much more neurological level that isn't near as simple as "rewiring" the brain. In my own personal practices, I've begun to shift my thinking less toward the diagnosis (without totally dismissing it) and more toward the environment I engage within. This is a unique process that requires a highly-trained, trauma-informed psychologist.
Your brain outside of the Window
This is where it helps to understand what is neurologically happening. When you're outside of that squishy, plushy zone in the center, your prefrontal cortex of the brain (impulsive control, thought-processing, emotional regulation, decision-making) is under responsive. In short, it's out of commission. The pistons aren't firing. That center of your brain can't effectively communicate with your amygdala. Amy, for short, is that friend who comes over every time she has a crisis and eats all the doritos, crashes on the couch, and over stays her welcome (thanks to one of my therapists for the analogy). Your amygdala is a small part of the brain that sets off the alarm when it identifies a threat, and when your prefrontal cortex (see above) is out of commission, Amy's out of control and stuck.
Great, what do I do?
The most effective thing you can do is talk to a trauma-informed clinician. They can train you on strategies for expanding your window of tolerance, and they can help plan strategies to recognize triggers so you can get back into that window of tolerance.
Once you're able to recognize your own hyperarousal and hypoarousal states, you can begin to learn how to pair them with their opposite. For instance, when I want to decrease arousal, I enjoy deep pressure, heavy work, drink a warm beverage, and gravitate toward calm music. In worst case scenario, I might go inside a dark closet and lay down. When I want to increase my arousal, I smell essential oils, chew on something loud, rock myself, listen to loud music, drink cold water, and find an excuse to start jumping around more.
Great! Now what do you do?
Book: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker
Book: Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by David A. Treleaven
Book: The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
Game: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate