I spent a lot of years in the military and I managed to make it through with my sense of humor intact, the same spouse I started out with, no ulcers and all of my hair. Not everyone I know was so fortunate. In fact I think back on it now and shake my head in disbelief because the military — I’m convinced — is a high stress environment no matter what job you do. It’s even more stressful now and has been since 9/11. We’ve all heard about good stress and bad stress. The way it was explained to me was so simple that I’ll never forget it: “GOOD STRESS” motivates you and “BAD STRESS” kills you.
That pretty much sums it up in my book. But how does your brain know the difference between good stress and bad?
According to www.centerpointe.com, our brains are designed to help us “power through.” Under stress, the brain signals to release hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. They give us energy, strengthen the immune system, improve reflexes and even help our memory.
But if we are always under stress, the release of cortisol begins to work against us. Simply put – chronic stress can affect all the things we depend on to live: your head, your heart, your liver and even your immune system.
Want an easy explanation of how the ‘ol grey-matter responds to stress? O-k, here we go:
– Something upsets you (like you didn’t get paid enough for that great article you wrote),
– Stress hormones are released from your brain, the hormones throw off your whole system.
– Your body sends back a message saying that it’s in trouble.
– The “body-is-in-trouble” message makes your brain even more upset, and so your brain sends out more stress hormones.
– They only upset your body more and so it sends another distress message back to your brain.
– The stress subsides when you satisfy the need. In this case you sold another article or made more money on the next article.
And speaking about “stress hormones” – stress is something programmed in our DNA. Just ask our ancestors who were hunting Saber Tooth Tigers for lunch. Your heart starts racing when you’re scared because it’s preparing to help you speed away from danger. You would need those extra heart beats to help you get away from something threatening. Our caveman ancestor knew this as the “Fight or Flight” reaction, also known as “live to hunt/fight another day“.
Lifecoaches.com points out that chronic stress causes the neurons in the brain to shrinkand change shape. In animals, that causes a loss of memory, increased anxiety and aggressiveness that can lead to signs of depression.
But heck, why stop with animals – those symptoms sure sound familiar to a lot of humans I know as well as myself at one time or another!
The great thing about the brain is that for a three-pound lump of goo, it’s pretty darn resilient. According to Coolnurse.com, scientists say the brain’s ability to “bounce back” can help prevent burnout. The same neurons that were starting to look like stunted peanuts will grow back to normal size when the brain stops stressing.
The key – say psychologists – is to give the brain time without stress: relaxing with family, exercising, eating well — and even ignoring the telephone.
The fascinating thing about the brain is that it is now being considered a “bordered” organ. Which means that the brain is a lot more complex that we ever though and different regions of the brain have different functions.
Here’s an example: I once busted up my hand in the gym. I hurt the wrist and strained a tendon or two and dropped some weight on the fingers. Aside from the obvious pain, it so happened that I had hurt my right hand: the hand I draw with, write with, the hand I do most meticulous things with. Well during the 5 weeks my right hand was stuck in a brace, wouldn’t you know that I became proficient doing a whole bunch of things with my left hand. I never would have guessed. And that’s a simple example. Individuals with serious disabilities have tuned in to what I’m talking about out of necessity. The brain — research is proving — is indeed able to multi-task: lose your vision, and the lobe that processed light may repurpose itself for other senses. Suffer a stroke in the area that controls your right arm, and another area may take over at least some of the job.
The brain will handle stress the same way. But the constant pounding that stress provides can indeed be rehabilitating.
Also according to www.coolnurse.com, which effect stress has on you depends on how YOU decide to handle it. And how you handle it depends in large part how you program yourself brain to react to it. How you handle stress depends on being able to recognize it, knowing where it’s coming from, and understanding your stress-management options so you can choose the best one for your situation.