Hmmm… I wonder why I’m coming across so much information dealing with stress these days. Could it have something to do with the holidays? Or is the Universe trying to teach me to look differently at the learning curves involved in creating a business project?
I’m still processing the profound shift in my own being that has resulted from the latest brain research – and anyway, with holiday obligations looming, you probably don’t have time to hear about me. Instead, I want to give you some insights about the new stress research. (If you don’t have time even for this, skip to the bottom-line tips at the end. I’ll understand.)
Here are the “sound bytes” from a couple of the articles and talks I’ve been imbibing.
- Stress can harm you only if you believe it can! Seriously, large long-term studies bear this out. People who’ve been under huge amounts of stress tend to die only if they have a negative response to stress. Those who had a healthy framework for understanding stress experienced no adverse effects.
- Besides a big shot of adrenaline, which gets your body ready for dealing with a stressful event, we also get a shot of another stress hormone: oxytocin, the “feel-good” social-connection neuro-hormone. This hormone motivates us to reach out to others to help and to get help. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory that protects our cardiovascular system from the effects of stress, including regenerating damaged heart cells.
- DHEA and nerve growth factor are other hormones that are released during stressful situations. They help our brain learn from the experience.
- Because introverts are sensitive to the adrenaline-created “pleasure” chemical dopamine, we can feel stressed as a result of too much. Interestingly, the latest brain research shows that the dopamine our brains do need naturally flows to the “imagination network” in our brain. This means that we feel pleasure in being curious: in processing information and in seeking interconnections and deeper understanding. I believe this has profound implications for how we choose to process the unwanted dopamine overdoses caused by all of life’s stressors – including holiday-related issues. (See my tip, below.)
Bottom-line Tips to optimize the stress reaction
- Tell yourself, “My stress response is getting me ready for handling this situation.”
- Reach out to others to get your “feel-good” oxytocin fix, which will protect your heart from a stress reaction. Get some help and also help someone else.
- Pay attention to the “learning” that’s part of the stress experience.
- Introverts: Shift out of limbic system freakout by choosing to be curious about the events, tasks, or other stressors you’re facing. With deep awareness, notice how your thoughts determine whether you react from lizard brain fear or prefrontal cortex “curiosity” thinking. Become aware of the directive power of your imagination. With your innate talent for deep inner processing, you can do this – and make it a way of life!
So during this holiday season, be thankful that your body chemistry is wired to handle stress – and be curious about situations that tend to cause you stress, such as why certain relatives are acting so crazy!
If you’re curious, check out these sources:
http://ideas.ted.com/how-to-be-good-at-stress/ (Scroll down to watch the video.)
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-real-science-of-introversion-and-the-rest-of-personality/ (Scroll down to watch the video.)