Excerpts from Generation Next (29 Sept, 2015) article “Science of stress: how neuroscience can help teachers switch off this summer” written by neurologist Judy Willis and adapted by PACE
The science of stress: how neuroscience can help
Spring is here and summer is already being felt so it’s time to shake off your stress and focus on staying positive. Worries can get in the way of success. It’s important to develop a positive mindset by setting yourself small achievable goals.
There are simple steps you can take to build a positive mindset, strengthen your stamina and approach the new season with less anxiety and greater expectations of success.
Don’t waste mental energy on blame
When circumstances limit one’s ability to be in control, self-doubt builds and confidence drops. Start increasing your positive mindset by recognising that these concerns are not always a reflection of your skills and abilities but possibly time factors or other issues. Be kind to yourself.
Understand your brain’s stress mode
The brain has a system that strengthens the memories and emotions that are most frequently used or experienced. The term for this is neuroplasticity and it refers to the brain’s ability to change or adapt in response to thoughts and experiences.
This means that you can reboot your brain by strengthening the circuits needed to activate motivation and effort.
A little background on neuroplasticity: all memory is held in the brain’s neurons and each neuron only holds a tiny bit of a memory. But when connections form among neurons holding the information, it becomes a brain circuit holding a retrievable idea.
Neuroplastic construction is the brain’s response to its own electrical activity. As neurons communicate through their connections (axons and dendrites) the information travels as electrical impulses. The more a circuit is activated, the greater the neuroplastic response of constructing thicker, stronger and faster connections. Thus the expressions “neurons that fire together wire together” and “practice makes permanent.”
It is this neuroplastic response that builds skills when learning is practised and applied. However, neuroplastic strengthening also takes place when emotional circuits are activated. When stress is frequent, the circuit producing that response becomes stronger – which means that after repeated frustrations and unachieved goals, your brain becomes more efficient at dropping into its stress response mode.
Switch from stressful reactions to positive actions
If you’ve repeatedly experienced failure in some area of your life, your brain will have built up a strong stress response circuit. But you can reboot your brain by strengthening the circuits needed to activate motivation and effort. Your weapon of mass reconstruction comes from one of your brain’s own chemicals – dopamine.
The satisfaction you feel when you persevere through a challenge or achieve a goal is a response to an increased level of dopamine, which brings feelings of pleasure and heightened motivation. You can build a more positive mindset circuit simply by setting yourself achievable challenges.
You can use the dopamine response to build strong circuits of positivity and renewed motivation by giving yourself opportunities to experience accomplishment. Plan activities that will provide frequent feedback on your development.
This is not the time to challenge yourself with things that you feel you should do but won’t look forward to, such as dieting. Select goals that you will enjoy and that will provide tangible evidence of your progress. These could include planting a garden, taking a pottery or cooking class, taking up an instrument or developing a new physical skill such as ballroom dancing or Tai Chi. It can even be as simple as walking along the beach or a scenic path.
Rewire and repeat
As you make progress in new challenges, the repeated satisfaction of the dopamine response will literally change your brain’s circuitry. Repeated effort/reward experiences will promote development of new neural networks that expect positive outcomes. Each time you achieve a goal, your positive mindset circuit will become stronger and this will reboot your confidence.
Just remember that you need to periodically recharge your new mindset to sustain the positive expectations and motivation and stay fortified against the re-emergence of that frustration and negativity.
The complete article can be accessed by clicking on the following link
Posted by Anne
‘For eight years, Kate’s eating disorder has been a daily feature of her life. In the last three months, however, following a period of determined treatment, I can count the number of days that have gone badly on just my fingers.’
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