Creating Resilience – Understanding your brains reaction to stress

Creating Resilience – Understanding your brains reaction to stressChronic Anxiety causes changes in the part of the brain known as the Amygdala. Your daily dose of stress also causes fatigue in the Medial Prefrontal cortex. This information should sound frightening. So now that you are worried about all the things you usually are, you can add on worrying about what the worry is doing to your brain!
Goal: Creating resilience to stress

The good news from research is also that the brain has something called neural plasticity. Humans have ability to rethink and re experience the events which occur so you can mold the brain back into pretty good shape with new experiences. New Behavioral therapy is based on understanding the adaptation (s) that occurred due to stressful experiences and creation of new relevant experiences to the same stressor. In this treatment a combination of, developmental, interpersonal, social situations, or thinking patterns creates a platform for the reengineering of current behavioral symptoms.

Development of your response to stress was happening from birth till around age 21. Even now your style of stress response can be changed but only when you do something different in the moment when stress is triggered. Some stress triggers go way back in our history to very young ages when we, ‘learned the way the world is’.

Your interpersonal stress is created when your brain gets signaled to play through a role that you think you know will lower the feelings of anxiety. When you step into being best friend because you care about someone, it doesn’t mean that you can be ‘used’ for any purpose. You have a set definition of this role or else you need a better definition of this role. Endless texting over a crisis may make you feel resentful.

Social anxiety isn’t always about being in the spotlight sometimes we just feel uneasy about a situation. All animals have a social role which gives us comfort. You know how to be at a birthday party but you may not feel comfortable if you are new in the group. You know how to be at a funeral. But you could feel odd if you were asked to speak about someone you barely knew.

These are all examples of your brain being fixed in one way and very plastic in another. The anxiety is triggered from a confusion of sorts. You have an identity but it is being taxed by the demands and behaviors of other people and situations.

Creating resilience to stress

You can gain flexibility in your response to stressful situations by using smaller everyday anxieties to practice. Adaptive behavioral therapy is also a preventive treatment as practice with smaller stressors creates familiarity with new healthy adaptive responses for future use. Today when you feel simply uneasy stop and ask yourself, “what just happened?”. You may see that some small anxiety was triggered by a word, a thought, a sound, or a visual cue. Don’t underestimate the sensitivity of your brain. When you practice with small stressors you will gain insight to the reason for anxiety and hen larger stress is at hand you can practice the same stop to gain greater control over your reactions.

Experience and training can modify the smaller effects of stress and bolster vulnerability to greater effects of stress.

References and further reading: This article is written from an excerpt of My Anxiety Notebook Part I. Sara Denning is a clinical psychologist and mental health counselor in New York City. For more information go to, or Cognitive flexibility, Dennis Charney Mt Sinai Hospital NYC., Stress Hormones Bruce McEwen Rockefeller Univ. NYC,. , Chronic Stress and Fatigue Medial Prefrontal cortex, Delaney.

Dr. Sara Denning Ph.D.
1 Union Square West Ste. 509
New York New York 10003

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