Brain Yoga: Stress — Killing You Softly

It’s clear that our society has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with physical, immediately life-threatening crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and illnesses that gnaw away at us slowly without any stress release.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky, in an interview about his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, points out that humans uniquely “can get stressed simply with thought, turning on the same stress response as does the zebra.” But, the zebra releases the stress hormones through life-preserving action, while we usually just keep muddling along, getting more anxious by the moment.

Prolonged exposure to the adrenal steroid hormones, like cortisol, released during stress can damage the brain and block the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the key player in encoding new memories in your brain. Recent studies have shown these neurons can be regenerated with learning and environmental stimulation, but while short-term stress may improve attention and memory, chronic stress leads indirectly to cell death and hampers our ability to make changes and be creative enough to even think of possible changes to reduce the stress.

What are the best defenses against chronic stress?

1. Exercise strengthens the body and can reduce the experience of stress, depression, and anxiety. Exercise promotes arousal and relaxation and improves quality of sleep.

2. Relaxation through meditation, biofeedback, yoga, or other techniques to lower blood pressure, slow respiration, slow metabolism, and release muscle tension.

3. Empowerment because attitudes of personal confidence and control of your environment, even if illusory, resolve the stress response.

4. Social network of friends, family, and even pets help foster trust, support, and relaxation.

So hey, go ahead, call your mom. It may save your life!

Further resources:
Brain Fitness Articles, Now with Some Humor
Robert Sapolsky on Stress
Stress Management Tips from the Serengeti
Prenatal stress suppresses cell proliferation in the early developing brain

Let us know what you think!

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12 Comments »

  1. […] Interfaces with other pillars for Brain Health and Brain Fitness, apart from mental stimulation – Physical fitness and Brain Fitness – Why Managing Stress is as important as Stimulating our Minds […]

  2. […] 3) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s FreezeFramer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid. […]

  3. […] Solution: please welcome Caroline, our contributing editor of the blog, who started writing last week such good posts as: – Brain Puzzle for the Whole Brain: The Blind Beggar – Nutritional Supplements and Brain Fitness – Visual Perception Brain Teaser – Brain Coach Answers: How Can I Be More Creative? Is Creativity a Part of Brain  Fitness? – Social Intelligence and Mirror Neurons – Social Intelligence and the Frontal Lobes – More Weight, Less Memory – Connections Between Physical and Brain Fitness – Brain Yoga: Stress — Killing You Softly – Brain Coach Answers: Aren’t crosswords and sudoku sufficient brain exercise? […]

  4. […] Zebras get stressed out same as humans do, so why do humans get ulcers while zebras (and other animals in the wild) don’t? Stress. Brain Yoga points out 4 defenses against chronic stress. […]

  5. […] What to do? Eduardo from the Happy Mind – Happy Mood blog has some great strategies for visualization, and check out his stress-busters, Part 1 and Part 2. One of our past posts includes some more stress-relieving strategies. Or check out these Stress Management Resources from Mind Tools. […]

  6. […] Further Links Fish Food for Thought Classes on Brain Fitness Brain Gyms Explained Physical Fitness and Brain Fitness Managing Stress […]

  7. Natraj said

    Yes. I completely agree with what you say man!! I think yoga should now be a part of everybody’s life. It definitely relieves stress and has many other benefits as well…

  8. […] Original post by Caroline and software by Elliott Back Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  9. […] Original post by Caroline and software by Elliott Back Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  10. […] “(new programs help address) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s FreezeFramer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid.” […]

  11. […] “(new programs help address) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s FreezeFramer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid.” […]

  12. […] 3) Anxiety and stress: not only test anxiety, but overall high-levels of anxiety that inhibit learning and higher-order thinking: a program already used in many schools, and with promising research results, is the Institute of HeartMath’s FreezeFramer. Read How stress and anxiety may affect Learning Readiness, and Why chronic stress is something to avoid. […]

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