So what can I do to calm my brain and manage stress?

So what can I do to calm my brain and manage stress?

Good question, so glad you asked it.

There is evidence that chronic stress can rewire the brain (remember Norman Doidge’s “Plastic Paradox”). When humans experience prolonged stress we have less activity in the prefrontal cortex, where we do those higher order tasks like being creative, making decisions and thinking logically. This means that there is more activity in the parts of the brain where the focus is on survival, such as the yelling amygdala. The primitive part of the brain builds up, and the part of the brain that is for complex thought takes a backseat.

Many people say that when they are under persistent stress or something distressing and frightening occurs they “can’t think”, their mind “goes blank”, and they “don’t know what to do”. That’s because the yeller has set the alarm off again and his mates the hippocampus and hypothalamus get pushed out of the way signalling the adrenal glands to set off the stress response. Our brain and body gets flooded with stress hormones and we can’t access our frontal lobes. There we are again, deer in the headlights, frozen and dithering about what to do.

There are lots of practical ways to manage stress. Like anything, stress management is a set of skills that can be learned but in order to be effective they need to be practised, and practiced and practiced again. Remember how those neural networks are formed and strengthened? By learning new ways of managing stress, and by taking action to put those strategies in place – time and time again – can help you to stress less.

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