Sunday, March 11, 2012

Secrets of the Stressed Out Brain

Heather Higgins,

Thinking about things we're grateful for can actually change our brains.

What is stress? It is a physiological response to a perception of a lack of control over an adverse situation, person, or event.

Top stressors for Americans...finances, health, employment

Cortisol...good in low doses. "Uh-Oh" Too much damages our brain. Lowers our immune system. Makes us more emotional.

Adrenaline..."Yikes!" Should be low during regular, daily routine.

Serotonin...Makes us feel content and calm. "Ahh..." Music with 60 beats or less. Calm exercise, food, sunshine, friendships, art. Lack of serotonin causes depression. Feel-good chemicals.

Dopamine...Music with 90 beats or more. Intense exercise. Chocolate. Love. Sex. Conquering our enemies (sports). Bullying. Violent video games. Addictions (alcohol, nicotine or other drugs).

Stress response is designed for emergencies. Moderate anxiety produces optimal performance. As stress increases, performance initially rises and then declines. Alert! Stress response (cortisol) Distress (cortisol and adrenaline

1. The UPS Guy...Hippocampus...the memory maker ...can find short term memories...can track important long term memories...forgets things that don't matter...chronic stress makes the hippocampus smaller in size...fully developed at about age 2

2. Palace Guard....Amygdala...the emotional center...protects us and keeps us out of danger...creates emotional memories...fully developed at birth...becomes overactive with chronic stress...part of the brain that rules a child's brain.

3. Brooklyn Bridge...corpus callosum...connects the two hemispheres of the brain...women can multitask (toggle between activities) more easily than men...facilitates integration of right and left hemisphere functions...

4. Learning to drive...Frontal Lobes...Executive system of the brain...a work in progress until we are 25...control judgement, insight, impulse control, understanding the consequences of our behaviors, organization, time orientation, reading social cues, goal achievement, learning from mistakes. Knowing that children are still developing this part of the brain can help in dealing with them and the choices they make.

Social reorganization (social stress) is bad for our brains. We need a sense of stability and home.

What we can do about stress...Neurogenesis is the birth of new brain cells. Enhanced by: exercise, complex environments, new learning, nutrition, low stress. Reduced by: distress, inactivity, boredom, depression, poor nutrition. After 35, your brain no longer produces more neurons than die off. We have to work to produce more neurons. Provide outlets for ourselves. Increase predictability and control in our environment. Encourage social supports. Giving has only pros, no cons.

Action plan for me...I can stop staying up late at night. I can start meditating, stretching, walking or doing yoga daily. If you want to learn, review the new info 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days later.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great synopsis of Heather's sectional. It seems that the best way to counter the affects of stress is to live by the basic healthy lifestyle that is also good for our hearts and body - exercise for body and brain and good nutrition.