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LEARNING AND STRESS
by Beverly Hunter
Have you ever wondered how much impact stress has on our ability to learn. Wellll, it has more than you probably realize! Stress is anything that causes our bodies to change or adapt --good or bad. Stress can be EMOTIONAL (an engagement or divorce, fear, a past trauma, a new job, etc.); STRUCTURAL (a bad fall, over exercising, a car accident, etc.); BIOCHEMICAL (coffee, donuts, sugar, etc.) ENVIRONMENTAL (microwaves, fluorescent lights, household chemicals, computers, etc.) and/or BEHAVIOURAL (inadequate rest, procrastination, perfectionism, etc.)
When we are functioning optimally, information from all our senses is processed in an integrated fashion in both brain hemispheres. Under any kind of stress, brain integration breaks down and body messages get confused. It becomes difficult to do and think at the same time. What's more, we are not simply reacting to stress in the moment, we are triggering cellular memory of past experiences which are layered into the brain and body. The classic stress response has been bred into our species for our survival.
1. ALARM STAGE --- Blood immediately goes from the front lobes of the brain to the back brain survival centers. Blood also leaves the digestion and goes to arms and legs for fight or flight. New ideas and chores of front brain are impossible when we are trapped into back brain, reactive survival patterns.
Glucose is released, requiring insulin from the pancreas. Your heart beats faster to get oxygen to the brain, leading to higher blood pressure. The body releases cholesterol into the blood pressure. The blood clotting mechanism steps up so you don't bleed to death if you get clawed by a tiger. Your pupils dilate to increase peripheral vision for heightened awareness of possible attackers. This is good if you are running from a bear but not if you are stressed from studying for an exam, and read everything three times with no focus or comprehension! Cortisone is released from the adrenal glands, affecting the thymus and suppressing the immune system. Muscles tense as part of the Tendon Guard Reflex; this tension runs down the shoulders, spine and back of the legs causing chronic muscle pain. We must learn to neutralize the wear and tear of on-going inappropriate stress reactions.
2. RESPONSE STAGE --- If you take action, the stress hormones dissipate. Without stress release techniques the stress hormones continue to build until we go into overwhelm.
3. OVERWHELM STAGE --- The body realizes you are not going to flee or fight. The body is storing up the stress hormones to a dangerous level and must detoxify. Blood leaves the large skeletal muscles and moves to the organs of detoxification and elimination. The person feels lethargic, going from mild into more serious overwhelm.
NOW THE GOOD NEWS --- We can re-educate our nervous system to react differently to the things that set off our stress response; to act rather than react, allowing us more options. What's more, we can have fun doing it.
One of the exercises in Brain Gym® for re-educating the body and mind is the Foot Flex. When we do this exercise the calf muscle is shown how to relax, stopping the Tendon Guard Reflex. This in turn tells the brain that it is no longer in survival and all the stress hormones can stop being released into the body. Blood returns to the frontal lobe where intellectual, higher processing ad thinking takes place. We become capable of integrating all the incoming information from all our senses in an integrated way in both brain hemispheres.
We create behaviour patterns that are not always constructive or give us happiness but they have kept us alive! Where are you ----Choosing your actions or in survival? How much do YOU want to learn today?!