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newsletter page ============================================== Brain
Facts by David Halstead,
Power Learning Group
Welcome to the MARCH/APRIL 2011 issue of the Brain News newsletter.
IN THIS ISSUE:-
Topics:- 1. Stress
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============================================== Brain Facts First published January 2003 by David Halstead,
M.Ed. Brain Power Learning Group
Brain News, March/April 2011
by David Halstead, M.Ed
Topic:- STRESS & DISTRESS
In this time of
uncertainty, March/April's Brain Facts focusses on the effects of
stress (distress) upon the
brain, our ability to learn and our behaviours. While a moderate amount
of stress is necessary for normal
functioning, high levels of stress for protracted periods of time are
harmful and often debilitating. I refer to this
Stress is the by-product of the brain consciously or unconsciously
responding to internal or external stimuli
that are interpreted as dangerous or threatening. The initial response
is for messages to be sent to the adrenal
glands and the brain/body to become flooded with stress chemicals such
as adrenaline and glucocorticoids.
Very briefly the brain/body becomes ready to fight, take flight or in
some instances just freeze. The heart pumps faster,
more blood is diverted to large muscles and lesser amounts to the
brain, the human or animal is ready for survival.
2. If the body and the brain are able to manage the threat, the stress
chemicals are metabolized and brain/body
returns to normal. In his excellent book "Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers"
Robert Sapolsky explains the above
this way. Lion chases zebras, zebras either get away or are eaten. If
not eaten the zebras soon settle down to
graze and do what zebras do best. They don't dwell on the lions in
their midst or territory. In terms of distress,
at least, humans are often not so lucky.
3. Distress therefore, comes about largely when we receive
repeated"threatening" messages and we
are not able to adequately process the chemicals and related feelings.
The brain/body is not able to return to
4. Distress and decision making.
The brain becomes less functional under severe stress. It is less able
to process complex ideas and
make good decisions. The brain becomes more concrete in its thinking.
Do you ever recall being lost in
a strange city and being unable, or less able to make a decision which
will get you out of your jam?
5] The brain is less able to create or
recall long term memory under stress. Remember the number of times
you left an exam room only to recall the answers to questions, 30
minutes or an hour later. This is due to
the brain's hippocampii being rendered partially paralysed by the
excess glucocorticoids which are in the blood
stream. The neurons begin to function more effectively once the stress
chemicals have been metabolized.
Children who live in "war zones" either in their homes or elsewhere may
be so stressed for so long that their
hippocampii become permanently damaged.
Stressful memories may be stored in the amygdala and be released
throughout one's life as Anxiety or
Panic Attacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). If these
memories are formed before the person
has acquired language, it will be nearly, if not, impossible for that
person to gain any understanding of why they
act and feel as they do.
7. During times of war, the media seems to feel duty bound to provide
endless hours of graphic detail and
explanation of the horrors of the conflict. This has the effect of
captivating certain people and, for many,
significantly raising their stress levels.
8. Stress may lead to depression.
9. Distress also negatively affects
the immune system, one's coordination, sleep and eating patterns,
concentrate (this is magnified in children and adults with ADD or
ADHD), and leads to a series of symptoms
such as headaches, muscle aches, general feeling of lethargy and
gastro- intestinal problems among other
10. Studies reveal that people who feel they are in control of their
environment and their thoughts are less
likely to experience sustained distress. In the other hand, people who
are at the lower end of the workplace
pecking order or feel trapped within jobs or relationships may be
candidates for large amounts of distress.
11. Some stress management techniques.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine and
nicotine from life, increase the amount of daily exercise, eat
focusing on complex carbohydrates, reduce sugar intake, try to get an
adequate amount of sleep, make
lists of things that need to be done, determine which things have
priority, come to grips with or seek
resolution to relationship problems either at home or at work, take up
meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or some
other activity which will help the brain and body focus in a calm
manner. Avoid the use of alcohol as a means of
controlling life's stressors.
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