Your Brain on Stress

By: Stephanie Osuba

Our brain has an automatic response to stress located in the amygdala, an almond sized structure in our brain that regulates emotion. Once a threat is perceived, the amygdala releases a number of hormones – adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine – to prepare for the “fight or flight” response. This is all well and good for physical threats, but what about interpersonal threats? Threats that are far more complex that need an actual solution rather than simply running away. That’s when your prefrontal cortex comes into play as it handles all of the executive function in your brain and allows you to think critically about situations. This way you can learn how to deliberately take a step back and think about how you are going to handle the stressor. So instead of letting your emotions dictate when you are angry with your significant other, dealing with rude customers, or have one too many, here are some ways you can learn to manage your stress in a constructive way:

  • Take a Breath: Calm things down and take deep breaths. This clears your head long enough for you to regain control of your emotions and let your prefrontal cortex get onboard. Once you do that, you can start critically thinking about what to do with your stressor.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the act of being in the present and being aware of your surroundings and the social context you are in. By asking yourself, “why am I feeling angry?” or “is saying this mean thing the best thing to do right now?” you can stop yourself from acting out in a way that you might regret.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Some situations allow room for you to intervene, and others do not. Focus your energy on aspects you can anticipate, while at the same time mindfully accepting the aspects that you cannot.
  • Broaden Your View: When the amygdala gives off negative emotions due to the stressor, the anxiety usually narrows your point of view and drives you to find the quickest solution to the problem. As we know, the fastest solution isn’t always the best and it prevents you from using the stressful opportunity to grow and learn from the situation and finding a creative solution.

As much as we would rather not have to deal with it, stress is part of our daily lives and learning how to manage it can give us the life skills to handle, relatively, any situation thrown at us.

Source: Greenberg, M., Ph.D. (2017, September 7). Five Secrets to a Stress-Proof Brain. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201702/five-secrets-stress-proof-brain

If you or someone you know is experiencing psychological distress due to stress, please contact our psychotherapy/psychiatry offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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College Stress

By: Charleene Polanco

Change is a natural part of life. Some people gladly welcome change and growth, while others tend to panic when the stability of what they are used to is gone. College is one of the biggest transitions a person can experience, because it is a time for independence. Leaving the safety of your house, parents, and friends is necessary to have new experiences and make connections. College introduces a change in lifestyle, greater workload, different responsibilities, and new relationships. With all of these changes, many students experience college stress because they are unable to effectively handle the different aspects of their lives. College stress is more common than we think, with six out of ten students experiencing stress to the point of it becoming detrimental to their college lives. The symptoms of college stress include headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and an inability to cope.  The more serious symptoms of college stress are suicidal thoughts, drug/alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, physically violent outbursts, and uncontrollable crying.

Since stress is so prevalent among college students, there are many tips available to help reduce and cope with stress. It is recommended that college students seek out stress management resources. On college campuses, there are many resources available to students, which can help them manage their lives. Counseling services are one of the many resources designed to hear student’s problems and provide them with solutions. If a person is uncomfortable with contacting counseling services, they can start out by talking to a trusted friend, advisor, or family. However, if you are experiencing the more serious symptoms of college stress, it is highly encouraged that you seek out counseling services or other professional resources.

If you or someone you know is suffering from college stress, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Sources:

NYU. “Stress.” Stress, NYU, www.nyu.edu/life/safety-health-wellness/live-well-nyu/priority-areas/stress.html

“Student Guide to Balancing Stress.” Best Colleges, Best Colleges , 28 June 2018, www.bestcolleges.com/resources/balancing-stress/.

 

Anxiety: Test Anxiety

By: Charleene Polanco

Have you ever had a moment of extreme panic, right before the beginning of a test? How about feeling like you are about to faint, or excessive sweat during an exam? If these symptoms describe your test-taking experience, then you might be suffering from test anxiety.

Test anxiety is defined as a psychological condition where people experience severe distress and anxiety during exams. Some causes of test anxiety are fear of failure and lack of preparation. A fear of failure can result from wanting to perform well. One who associates their self-worth with a test’s outcome, can feel devastated when the grade is not what he or she expected. This creates a vicious cycle, where because the person is afraid of feeling worthless, when they fail, they become anxious while taking the exam.  As a result, their performance level on tests drops. Lack of preparation is another cause of test anxiety, which occurs when students do not study properly for an exam. For those who like to wait until the night before an exam, to cram five chapters worth of information into their brain, tests are a constant source of anxiety and stress.

Symptoms of test anxiety can be split up into three categories; physical, emotional, and behavioral/cognitive symptoms. Some physical symptoms include headaches, nausea, excessive sweating, and rapid heartbeat. Emotional symptoms can be expressed as feelings of anger, fear, helplessness, and disappointment.  Behavioral/cognitive symptoms are difficulty concentrating and negative thinking.

To help manage test anxiety, here are some tips;

  • Properly prepare for exams
  • Develop good test-taking skills
  • Engage in relaxation techniques, like taking deep slow breaths
  • Keep a positive mindset

If you or someone you know is suffering from test anxiety, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Source:

“Test Anxiety.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America , 2018, adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety

Stress: The Detrimental Effects of Stress on the Body

By: Charleene Polanco

Stress is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. Stress is defined as a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension, and whether it is about taking a final exam for class, going off to college for the first time, or work-related, stress can affect the way we perform. If gone unchecked, stress can lead to a variety of negative consequences on the body, which will be discussed. Stress has been linked to a number of physical and emotional disorders, like depression, anxiety, heart attacks and stroke. A constant high level of stress, can lead to immune system disturbances, which can cause an increase in your body’s susceptibility to infections. Stress can also have direct effects on the skin leading to rashes and hives.

Unlike rashes and hives, which are visible, stress can affect various systems, organs, and tissues within the body, signs that are not seen, and are, therefore, much harder to notice. Some parts of the body affected by stress are the nervous and cardiovascular systems. When stressed, the nervous system signals the body’s adrenal glands to secrete adrenalin and cortisol. Since both of these hormones cause high blood pressure, a person who is under constant stress, also has elevated blood pressure which can lead to heart problems in the future. Even if a stress episode is considered to be minor, repeated minor stress episodes can negatively impact a person’s cardiovascular system by causing inflammations in the coronary arteries. This can eventually cause heart attacks. In order to prevent the negative consequences of untreated high levels of stress, it is important to recognize the symptoms. There are multiple symptoms of stress, some of which include, frequent headaches, cold hands/feet, dry mouth, heartburn, depression, forgetfulness, and rapid or mumbled speech.

If you or someone you know is suffering from stress, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

Source:

“Stress Effects.” Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress, The American Institute of Stress, 4 Jan. 2017.