Do you want to understand Your brain’s stress and be a master of your powerful brain? Neuroscience involves the study of the nervous system and the brain.
We all experience stress from time to time, but what exactly is stress? Stress is the body’s response to any demand placed upon it. When we perceive a threat, our body survives, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration and suppress non-essential functions like digestion and the immune system. In other words, stress is the body’s way of preparing us to fight or flee.
While acute stress can be beneficial, chronic stress can hurt our health. When constantly in survival mode, our body never has a chance to recover and repair. This can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even heart disease.
So, what can we do to reduce stress? First, it’s essential to understand what causes stress. Once we know our triggers, we can develop coping mechanisms to deal with them.
Here we have listed just a few habits from neuroscience about brain stress to give you insight into the stress/anxiety response and how you might begin to re-wire your brain, leading to enhanced emotional wellbeing.
Dynamic programming begins in the womb!
A fetus’s brain stress and nervous system start developing about halfway through pregnancy, and the fetus learns the mother’s chemistry of emotions and behavioral patterns via the placenta.
For example, if the mother is stressed, the stress hormones are passed through her blood and are programmed into the fetus’s brain stress and nervous system. Dynamic programming is further developed in the brain through face-to-face recognition. From just three weeks of age, the baby can distinguish based on the parents’ eyes if the parents are happy, afraid, or angry. Yep, the baby actually perceives the environment through mum and dad.
- As adults, how we think and feel about ourselves and others depends on our learned history. And how we respond behaviorally to new experiences depends on whether our brain perceives earlier intellectual experiences as threatening or positive. This is important whether you are a parent or want to deepen your understanding of why you automatically react.
Caveman brain stress in the 21st century (or why you become brain stressed and anxious):
- Our ancestors survived to pass on their genes because inbuilt in their brain was a primal survival stress response to activate the body to run from, or fight off, real danger – commonly known as the ‘fight, flight or flee’ system.
- In the 21st century, our stress response (fight, flight, or freeze system) is still locked, loaded, and ready to respond. And, it will react this way whether we perceive a real threat such as a growling lion or an experience of a mental annoyance such as a snarky comment from our partner or others.
- Not only do our memory systems for positive and neutral experiences take 5 to 20 seconds longer to register because our ancestors did not need this neural pathway for survival, but our brain also uses an express neural pathway to stay on high alert for incoming threats.
What does this mean for you? It means that you are naturally more likely to perceive and fixate on what’s going wrong in the world around you instead of what’s going right, which will more readily activate your stress response. This phenomenon is known as the brain’s negativity bias.
Our Amygdala Activates our Stress Response:
- Our amygdala, situated in the emotional brain (the limbic system), is like our stress thermostat, deciding what our baseline of stress should be to keep us safe and ensure our survival.
- Unfortunately, the amygdala can become confused when stress is relentless, mixing up the signals for danger and safety. To protect us, it opts to keep the stress response (fight/flight/freeze system) switched turned to ‘on.’
This switch will continuously activate stress chemicals, such as cortisol, to cascade throughout the body. Being in a heightened stress state for long periods is physically and emotionally bad for us.
We will be more prone to experience anxiety and panic attacks along with illnesses such as fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
However, new neuroscience developments have identified ways to reset the switch In the amygdala back to a normal position.
Neuroscientists have found that the brain’s neural pathways are re-wired in response to new experiences – you can learn to ‘switch on the relaxation response. You would like to improve your mental wellbeing.