The Brain, Stress, & Healing (part 2)

If you are just joining us I invite you to check out part 1 of this blog so you can meet Amy, Hippo, and Olly. Here

Today we are going to briefly cover three topics 1) how anxiety affects team brain, 2) neuroplasticity and what it means for healing, and 3) some simple strategies you can implement. Wow that’s a lot… if you need a break feel free to always take a break and finish the rest of the post later. These are also all topics I may dive into deeper in the future.

Anxiety

We left off learning about how Amy and Hippo can sometimes give us some trouble (or false alarms) and how threats look different today than they did in the caveman days. We also learned that when Amy doesn’t allow the information in our brain to reach Olly it can be termed unmindful thoughts/behaviour. We react before we allow our mind to think about and process the information.

Ever heard of the term the amygdala hijack? The amygdala hijack is another way of explaining what happens when Amy takes over. A great example of the amygdala hijack is road rage. Have you ever caught yourself yelling and cursing at the car who cut you off that is now a kilometer up the road and can’t hear you? Or, have you ever had a friend jump out of a doorway to scare you and your first reaction is to punch them? Amygdala hijack.

Like I mentioned before, the problem is in today’s society we are constantly faced with stress and overwhelm our bodies and brains. Your day may start off with sleeping through your alarm so your amygdala kicks in and you rush to work arriving late. Then after checking your schedule realize you have a big meeting in 30mi you don’t feel prepared for. You are so behind at work you work through your lunch. You spend the afternoon running around at work then rush home, eat something you can microwave before rushing off to a social gathering. You don’t stay late as you know you have to get up early for work and finish a couple things before bed let alone tackle housework/chores. By the time you finally crawl into bed your brain may also be overwhelmed about bills, kids, relationships, or your future. After laying awake for hours you finally crash feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Can you feel the stress just reading that paragraph? If so take 3 deep slow breaths. The problem is, in today’s society we deal with stress all day long without a break or a way to exert our energy and adrenaline. Back in caveman days if you were running from a lion your body is using all the adrenaline and stress hormones as you run. And i’m guessing that once you reached safety you would sit a rest for 15-20 min in order to allow your body time to return to a level state.     

When we experience this increased stress on a daily basis for years and years our body thinks this heightened state is our new baseline and adapts accordingly. When you have an anxiety disorder you are likely working with an overactive/supersensitive Amy and an elevated baseline.   

Amygdala hijack videos 

video 2 (animation)

Video 3

Neuroplasticity (Healing Your Brain from Anxiety) 

Can I change? The good news…. Yes! And it is going to take some work on your end to make it happen. Our brains are amazing and complex. Our brains are constantly changing and adapting which means that changing habits, thought patterns, and healing from trauma are not impossible – that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Depending on many factors including age, life circumstance, and personality it may take 21 days to make changes or it may take years.

What is neuroplasticity? I have attached a short clip here to help explain neuroplasticity and the brain. Neuroplasticity

This amazing concept means that our brains actually have the ability to heal and to change. We have the ability to create new paths in our brains, however in order to do so we must be consistent and obedient to the change process. Some research says it takes about 21 days in a row of making a different choice for our brain to recognize the new path as a default.

“Two paths diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference!”

Imagine yourself walking along the river at the beginning of summer. You have to wade through tall waist high grass. This is a beautiful path; you decide to make it your nightly stroll. By the end of the summer there is a well worn path where the grass no longer grows. Your path is obvious; marked. This is similar to how it works in your brain. The challenge? Our brain is only able to create these new paths when we first change our behaviour. We need to obediently and consciously chose to make different decision with different outcomes for it to stick. For example, if you are a runner, I bet the first couple times you decided to lace up and start running it did not feel good and you had to make a conscious effort to put your shoes on and run. Prior to running each day your brain probably came up with a million excuses as to why you shouldn’t run that day. But, as you persevered running became easier, you became more motivated, and maybe eventually started to enjoy it – crave it.

Tools

As my blog continues to progress I will continue to add new posts on ways you can train ‘Team Brain’, prevent your amygdala hijack, and work towards healing because of neuroplasticity.

Here are a couple quick tips to get you started.

    1. Brain breaks: Your brain needs breaks throughout the day. Take time to get up from your desk or task and go for a short walk, if only to the bathroom. Stretch! Meditate!
    1. Work towards mindful thinking and mindful behaviour. The best way to start training your brain for this is by practicing meditation techniques.
    1. Label your emotions. Ever heard of ‘name it to tame it?’ Naming your emotion takes the power out of it and allows your brain to figure out how to process it. It also gives you direction in which coping strategy to use.
  1. Exercise! Even if you just go for a 30min walk. Exercise is so good for the brain (and the rest of you). Exercise helps to combat all those negative stress hormones.  

Here are some other interesting video I like on the topic

Tedx Talks – After watching this your brain will never be the same  here

9 Ted Talks on Neuroscience

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8 Comments on “The Brain, Stress, & Healing (part 2)

  1. Thank you for your post! I am enjoying learning more about amygdala hijack and how you describe it. This happens to me often the minute I turn out the light at night and all my thoughts come flooding in. Fear mode starts. I also appreciate hearing about neuroplasticity as there is much hope in knowing there are ways to heal and re-route the brain. I notice that if we are in high stress mode and our bodies are constantly reacting to fear, we get used to that mode. But after many days of low levels of anxiety, my body can start to get used that too, and realize this is a better way. 🙂 (at least I hope so) Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. I am so pleased to read about your interest and knowledge regarding the brain and neuroplasticity! This has become an important field of research to me in the past few years. Thanks! (and I’m going to watch every last second of those TED talks 😉 )

    Like

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