Saturday, April 6, 2013

Stress and Your Brain

Does your brain harbor unrealistic expectations that, in turn can cause negative stress known as distress? Or are you experiencing misstress, the result of expectations that you have not brought to conscious awareness so you miss the actual impact to your life and health? The brain is the first body organ to register a stressor. Within the brain itself, the hippocampus, often referred to as the brain’s “search engine,” may be the portion most sensitive to stress. High levels of adrenalin and cortisol due to chronic stress can actually end up killing brain cells, often beginning with cells in the hippocampus. Effective stress management techniques can be, therefore, critically important to maintaining good brain function. Remember that multiple stressors may require multiple stress management strategies. Here are three to consider:

1. Whenever possible, avoid negative stressors or limit the length of exposure time (e.g., do you really need to attend that function and if so what is the minimum amount of time you can devote to it)?

2. When in a stressful situation, decide whether there is some action you need to take at the moment. Maybe not, but perhaps you can use the knowledge gained to take a different action in the future.

3. If a specific task is very stressful for your brain and you decide you must do it eventually, try to get it over with sooner than later. Procrastination can add even more stress to the task itself.

Hercule Poirot, the fictional Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie, might put it this way: “Use your little gray cells to take care of your little gray cells.”

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