Are You Stressed?…..Yeah, Me Too!

April 12, 2024 | Emerging therapies like neurofeedback offer promising avenues for managing and mitigating these effects

Author: Melissa Hergert

Melissa Hergert is the Founder and CEO of Brain Train Centers and CoFounder of Brain Train Nation. She is Board Certified in Neurofeedback Therapy and Amen Clinic Brain Coach Certified. She is dedicated to educating communities about the power of neurofeedback and how it can help the brain heal and oercome many mental health symptoms.

Brain Train Centers Headquarters (Marietta, GA)

 

Introduction:

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but its effects on the brain can be profound and far-reaching. From impacting cognitive function to contributing to mental health disorders, chronic stress can take a significant toll. However, emerging therapies like neurofeedback offer promising avenues for managing and mitigating these effects.

What is Stress?

There are different types of stress. Good Stress (Eustress) and Bad Stress (Distress). We will discuss both types below and then give you tools how to manage stress!

Bad stress, also known as “distress,” refers to the negative and harmful effects of stress on the body and mind. Bad stress can be overwhelming and detrimental to overall health and well-being. Here are some examples of bad stress:

  1. Chronic Stress: Persistent stress over an extended period can lead to chronic stress. This type of stress can result from ongoing issues such as work-related pressures, financial difficulties, or relationship problems. Chronic stress can contribute to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental health disorders.
  2. Traumatic Stress: Traumatic stress occurs in response to a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, or violent encounter. Traumatic stress can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety.
  3. Work-related Stress: Stress related to work can be a significant source of distress for many people. Factors such as job insecurity, long hours, and high workloads can contribute to work-related stress, which can negatively impact both physical and mental health.
  4. Financial Stress: Financial difficulties can be a major source of stress for individuals and families. Concerns about money, debt, and financial stability can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.
  5. Relationship Stress: Difficulties in relationships, whether with a partner, family member, or friend, can be a significant source of distress. Relationship stress can result from conflicts, communication problems, or feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  6. Health-related Stress: Dealing with health issues, either personally or as a caregiver for a loved one, can be incredibly stressful. Health-related stress can impact both physical health and mental well-being.
  7. Environmental Stress: Environmental factors such as noise, pollution, and overcrowding can contribute to stress. These stressors can be particularly challenging in urban areas or high-stress environments.

But guess what there is Good Stress too!!! I know crazy right?

Good stress, also known as “eustress,” is a type of stress that can be beneficial and motivating. Good stress can help individuals feel energized, focused, and excited. Here are some examples of good stress:

Challenging Work: Taking on challenging tasks or projects can create a sense of excitement and accomplishment. This type of stress can motivate individuals to work harder and achieve their goals.

Exercise: Physical exercise is a form of stress on the body, but it has numerous health benefits, including improved mood, increased energy, and better overall health. Exercise-induced stress can help strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance mental well-being.

Learning and Growth: Engaging in activities that require learning and skill development, such as taking up a new hobby or learning a new language, can be a positive form of stress. These activities can stimulate the brain and improve cognitive function.
Socializing: Social interactions can be a source of stress, but they can also be rewarding and fulfilling. Spending time with friends and loved ones can reduce feelings of loneliness and improve overall happiness.

Goal Setting: Setting and working towards meaningful goals can create a sense of purpose and drive. The process of striving towards a goal can be challenging but ultimately rewarding.
Competition: Healthy competition can be a source of motivation and excitement. Whether in sports, academics, or the workplace, competition can push individuals to perform at their best.
Adventures and Travel: Exploring new places and trying new experiences can be exhilarating and stimulating. Traveling can broaden perspectives and create lasting memories.

 

What Does Bad Stress do to our Brains?

When we experience stress, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which trigger the “fight or flight” response. In the short term, this response can be adaptive, helping us respond to immediate threats. However, chronic stress can lead to sustained high levels of these hormones, which can damage the brain over time.

One of the primary areas of the brain affected by stress is the hippocampus, a region critical for memory and learning. Chronic stress has been shown to reduce the size of the hippocampus, which can impair our ability to form new memories and learn new information. This shrinkage has also been linked to an increased risk of developing mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

Stress can also impact the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive functions such as decision-making, impulse control, and emotion regulation. Chronic stress can weaken the connections between neurons in this region, leading to difficulties in these areas. This can manifest as poor decision-making, impulsivity, and emotional instability.

Additionally, stress can affect the amygdala, the brain’s fear center. High levels of stress hormones can increase the activity of the amygdala, leading to heightened anxiety and emotional reactivity. This can make it harder to cope with stressors and can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

So How Can You Manage Stress Using Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy that aims to train the brain to regulate its activity more effectively. It involves measuring brainwave patterns using sensors placed on the scalp and providing real-time feedback to the individual through visual or auditory cues. By learning to control their brainwave activity, individuals can potentially improve their brain function and reduce symptoms related to stress and other conditions.

What Does the Research Say About Managing Stress Using Neurofeedback Therapy?

Research has shown that neurofeedback can be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. By targeting specific brainwave patterns associated with relaxation and calmness, individuals can learn to modulate their stress response and improve their ability to cope with stressors. Additionally, neurofeedback has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory, attention, and executive function, which can be impaired by chronic stress.

Overall, stress can have profound effects on the brain, impacting cognitive function, mood, and overall well-being. However, therapies like neurofeedback offer promising strategies for managing these effects and improving brain health. By targeting specific brainwave patterns, neurofeedback can help individuals reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance their overall quality of life.