Stress and the Brain

Print out and post on wall. We recommend you go outside before you get to this point.

We all know that stress can have a negative effect on our lives, but how much do we understand about what happens to our brain and our body when we live in a state of high stress? Our bodies have a built in biological response known as Fight or Flight. When our brain perceives that we are in danger, it triggers the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. When this happens, our breathing pattern changes, our visual perception becomes sharper and extra blood gets sent to our limbs allowing us to fight for our lives or flee. When we are in danger this response is beneficial for survival, however, when we are in stressful, non-life threatening situations, our bodies have the same hormonal response as if we were in danger. By nature, the Fight or Flight system bypasses the rational mind and we tend to perceive that everything in our environment is a threat. This can lead to extreme sensitivity, aggressiveness and overreaction. These responses can wreak havoc on our relationships with our family and our coworkers, creating unnecessary tension and conflict. It can also affect our ability to concentrate, to make decisions, to problem-solve and to communicate clearly. We were not meant to function with large doses of these stress hormones coursing through our bodies. A recent study from the University of Edinburgh has shown how stress can be linked to memory loss. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that although low levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can help our memory, high levels of cortisol can impair our memory and actually inhibit our temporal and frontal lobes from creating new memories.

How can you reduce and retrain the human stress response?
1. Get up and move. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It can decrease your level of stress hormones, focus your mind on something other than what is causing your stress, and it can be a great outlet for frustration.
2. Take breaks. Get away from your desk for a few minutes. If weather permits, go outside and get some fresh air. Pack your lunch and eat outside. Take a short walk. This can help reduce your stress and increase your concentration and productivity when you return to your work.
3. Find a few moments to be quiet. Whether you meditate, pray or just take a moment to breathe, shutting out the external and internal noise of the day can be extremely calming.
4. Find some stress relief tools. Bucky Balls are a great toy for your desk. They are great for keeping your hands busy and shifting your focus. They can also inspire creative thinking. One of our favorite stress relief products is EmWave Desktop. EmWave software system measures and shows how stress and emotions affect our heart rhythms. The software can assist you in reprogramming your body’s stress response. Traders from a Chicago firm use EmWave Desktop in the background while trading. The program’s positive effects have lowered the employees’ stress response and increased their performance.

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