Dr. Block: Brain Focus Can be Used to Control Chronic Stress
Brain focus can be used to control chronic stress It can be very empowering to realize that the human brain can have a positive influence on our mood and modify our stress levels through well-defined strategies that can ultimately improve our ability to be healthy and happy. The amygdala is the seat of stress response and fires whenever it senses danger, activating the famous ” fight – or – flight ” response. When we experience “stress”, our frontal cortex receives less blood flow and is therefore less able to engage in higher levels of thinking. Our brain focus causes our body to have quicker reflexes and heightened senses, but it is not an optimal setting for complex problem solving. Stress produces the release of stress hormones. Adrenaline causes our heart rate and blood pressure to increase while constricting blood vessels and dilating our airways which brings more blood flow to our muscles and oxygen to our lungs. Release of aldosterone regulates electrolytes causing Reabsorbtion of sodium which is needed in stressful situations into the bloodstream. Cortisol releases sugar into our bloodstream to provide energy to our muscles for quick response. When cortisol increases, DHEA decreases. These responses can be life saving in response to an acutely dangerous situation.
A health risk concern develops when our stress hormones do not get promptly turned off but persist into a chronic state. There have been found to be over 1400 chemical reactions that occur in our bodies as a result of stress. Stress affects our ability to relax and sleep, and when we feel as though we cannot cope with all the items on our agenda, stress even affects our self-esteem. Under stress, immune function is affected and blood sugar increases. High levels of cortisol make people gain weight, decreases DHEA and promotes feelings of unhappiness that can lead to anger and depression.
Stress is a state one experiences when there is a mismatch between perceived demands and our ability to cope. It is always related to the perception of our mind to the situation and circumstances we find ourselves in. It has much more to do with the response to the situation rather than the situation itself.
Chronic stress or the state in which the stress hormones are continually being released is strongly negative for good health. Chronic stress emanates from a wide variety of situational circumstances that are perceived to be overwhelming. All chronic stress stems from pain, fear, or frustration. Frequently all three factors may play a role. In our effort to manage chronic stress it is helpful to understand the underlying perceived causes and break them into each component.
Pain can be either physical or emotional or often both. It is essential to define the source of pain, the degree of pain and an approach to manage the pain in order to reduce stress.
The fear or anxiety component is always a perceived or brain focus on the “unknown”. We never fear the known but only the unknown. The state of anxiety or when we feel anxious is a brain focus directed towards what we do not know or understand. Our brains are incapable of processing the unknown. The brain response is “stress” and the release of hormonal response as discussed. The antidote to focusing on the unknown is to define and focus on what is “known”. It is certainly appropriate and part of reasoning process to be aware of what is unknown. It becomes unhealthy when one continues to focus on that which is unknown.
The third component contributing to chronic stress is “frustration”. Frustration is always related to trying to control that which is uncontrollable. The antidote to frustration is to control that which is controllable and not to focus on that which is “not controllable”. It is always health negative to try to control that which is “uncontrollable”, Once it has been determined to be truly uncontrollable. It is certainly a healthy process to decipher that which is controllable from that which is not. Circumstances are often that perhaps part can be controlled and another part cannot be. The challenge is to define and then focus on that which can be controlled and ignore that which cannot be controlled. Most of us do not control that which can be controlled to the extent that we could control it, because we are too distracted by that which we cannot control.