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 Endless Pressures on the Brain

By: Sanjita Ekhelikar

A common factor that unites all people is experiencing stress. Stress is the way that our bodies react to various situations including pressure, threats, challenges, or barriers. All individuals experience this in some form in their work, home, or school settings, some to a greater degree than others. We live in a world where we often encourage those around us to do more, work harder and longer, and essentially take on more stressors. This is a very dangerous situation, as stress can be very harmful to our brains.

There are numerous impacts that prolonged stress can have on our brains. When a stressor is present, the body has several physical reactions, including increased heart rate, sweating, raised levels of epinephrine, and constricted blood vessels. In our brains, a signaling pathway is activated involving the hippocampus and pituitary gland which results in the release of the hormone glucocorticoid, a stress hormone. This hormone is generally regulated by the body, released in fixed amounts when we wake up and is necessary for our body to operate. However, when stress is chronic and the brain pathway is activated excessively, glucocorticoids can inhibit growth, bone formation, and the immune response. They are linked to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, destroying neurons, impairing memory, and slowing down cognitive function.

As stress is faced recurrently, the brain learns to acclimate to the body being in constant states of elevated tension and anxiety. The circuitry of neurons and connections of synapses changes to adapt to the higher levels of glucocorticoids. Additionally, people exposed to more stress noted to have a larger amygdala in the brain, which is the region responsible for processing threatening and emotional situations. A larger amygdala indicates that the individual is more susceptible to stressors and is unable to recover from them well. Finally, such individuals were also seen to have a smaller hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, both responsible for decision making and rational thinking.

It is evident that the stressful lifestyles that many of us live can have a severe adverse impact on our brains and health, most invisible to the eye but nevertheless perilous. Instead of endorsing demanding lives and tiring jobs, which can have negative consequences, we should be inspiring people to learn how to relax and take time for themselves. People should be urged to engage in activities such as meditation, pursue hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and give their brains a break from the stressors and anxiety that are continuously causing pressure.

If you or someone you know is suffering from excessive stress and/or mental illness, 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/.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

By Emily Aranda

Anxiety manifests itself in many forms and can be triggered by many stimuli. It is common to think of anxiety as stress that is tied to a situation, person, place, etc. of which rationally causes one anxiety, but generalized anxiety disorder is different. Generalized anxiety is not tethered to a physical or metaphysical thing; rather, it is free floating, does not require a trigger, and is not necessarily rational. Generalized anxiety is excessive, chronic, and interferes with one’s lifestyle. It affects 6.8 million US adults (3.1% of the US population) and is most commonly found in women. It is possible to develop generalized anxiety as a child or as an adult. Those with GAD tend to worry about the same topics as their peers, but to a disproportionate degree.

The mental symptoms of GAD are as follows:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Persistent worrying or obsessing
  • Inability to relax or let things go
  • Distress about decision making
  • imagining every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusion
  • feeling anxiety without an apparent cause

GAD does not only involve excessive worry. GAD involves physical symptoms as well. The following is a list of the physical implications of GAD:

  • Trouble sleeping, staying asleep
  • Hypertension in muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Trembling
  • Inappropriate sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a debilitating condition that can be addressed by a professional. If you or someone you know is having issues with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and 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, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Source:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20024562