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This month's topic  "STRESS and DISTRESS"
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Brain Facts
by David Halstead, M.Ed.    Brain Power Learning Group

Welcome to the MARCH/APRIL 2011 issue of the Brain News newsletter.


Brain Facts Topics:-
1.  Stress & Distress

I apologize to everyone who requested the link to J Fletcher's
article on Reading.  I have been unable to re-establish this link
and it appears the article has been remove from the web.

(This month's Mastermind newsletter topic
deals with "10 Things you MUST know about Bullying"

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Brain Facts
First published January 2003
by David Halstead, M.Ed.   
Brain Power Learning Group

Brain News,  March/April 2011
by David Halstead, M.Ed


                             In this time of uncertainty, March/April's Brain Facts focusses on the effects of stress (distress) upon the
                         brain, our ability to learn and our behaviours. While a moderate amount of stress is necessary for normal
                         functioning, high levels of stress for protracted periods of time are harmful and often debilitating. I refer to this
                         as distress.

1. Stress
                               Stress is the by-product of the brain consciously or unconsciously responding to internal or external stimuli
                         that are interpreted as dangerous or threatening. The initial response is for messages to be sent to the adrenal
                         glands and the brain/body to become flooded with stress chemicals such as adrenaline and glucocorticoids.
                        Very briefly the brain/body becomes ready to fight, take flight or in some instances just freeze. The heart  pumps faster,
                        more blood is diverted to large muscles and lesser amounts to the brain, the human or animal is ready for survival.

                         2. If the body and the brain are able to manage the threat, the stress chemicals are metabolized and brain/body
                         returns to normal. In his excellent book "Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers" Robert Sapolsky explains the above

                         this way. Lion chases zebras, zebras either get away or are eaten. If not eaten the zebras soon settle down to
                         graze and do what zebras do best. They don't dwell on the lions in their midst or territory. In terms of distress,
                         at least, humans are often not so lucky.

                         3. Distress therefore, comes about largely when we receive repeated"threatening" messages and we
                         are not able to adequately process the chemicals and related feelings. The brain/body is not able to return to
                           4. Distress and decision making.
                           The brain becomes less functional under severe stress. It is less able to process complex ideas and
                         make good decisions. The brain becomes more concrete in its thinking. Do you ever recall being lost in
                         a strange city and being unable, or less able to make a decision which will get you out of your jam?

                         5] The brain is less able to create or recall long term memory under stress. Remember the number of times
                          you left an exam room only to recall the answers to questions, 30 minutes or an hour later. This is due to
                          the brain's hippocampii being rendered partially paralysed by the excess glucocorticoids which are in the blood
                  stream. The neurons begin to function more effectively once the stress chemicals have been metabolized.
                         Children who live in "war zones" either in their homes or elsewhere may be so stressed for so long that their
                hippocampii become permanently damaged.

              6. Stressful memories may be stored in the amygdala and be released throughout one's life as Anxiety or
                          Panic Attacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). If these memories are formed before the person
                          has acquired language, it will be nearly, if not, impossible for that person to gain any understanding of why they
                  act and feel as they do.

                          7. During times of war, the media seems to feel duty bound to provide endless hours of graphic detail and
                          explanation of the horrors of the conflict. This has the effect of captivating certain people and, for many,
                          significantly raising their stress levels.

                          8. Stress may lead to depression.

                          9. Distress also negatively affects the immune system, one's coordination, sleep and eating patterns, ability to
                          concentrate (this is magnified in children and adults with ADD or ADHD), and leads to a series of symptoms
                          such as headaches, muscle aches, general feeling of lethargy and gastro- intestinal problems among other

                          10. Studies reveal that people who feel they are in control of their environment and their thoughts are less
                          likely to experience sustained distress. In the other hand, people who are at the lower end of the workplace
                          pecking order or feel trapped within jobs or relationships may be candidates for large amounts of distress.

11. Some stress management techniques.

                           Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine from life, increase the amount of daily exercise, eat regularly,
                          focusing on complex carbohydrates, reduce sugar intake, try to get an adequate amount of sleep, make
                          lists of things that need to be done, determine which things have priority, come to grips with or seek
                          resolution to relationship problems either at home or at work, take up meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or some
                          other activity which will help the brain and body focus in a calm manner. Avoid the use of alcohol as a means of
                          controlling life's stressors.

Copyright© Brain Power Learning Group. 2002 All Rights Reserved
Brain Power Learning Group
22 Beaulynn Cove, Winnipeg, MB. Canada, R3T 5G4.
Phone:204-261-8483.    Toll Free: 1-888-562-0132 {Canada/USA}

 Peggy Halstead, Editor,
Brain Power Learning Group

 All rights reserved.


N.B. Information on the Brain Facts pages may be copied and used providing credit is given to David Halstead and Brain Power
Learning Group.

Copyright© Brain Power Learning Group. 2002 All Rights Reserved
Brain Power Learning Group
Peggy Halstead, Editor,
Brain Power Learning Group

 All rights reserved.

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by David Halstead, M.Ed, "The Brain Guy", and Brain Power Learning Group.
Edited by Peggy Halstead
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