G3.2: Thinking flexibly may help against the negative effects of stress.

Chronic stress can damage the health of brain cells. Routines may help save energy for the brain but may also make it more difficult to change habits once the routine has been established.

Neuroplasticity refers to the connections and pathways that form between brain cells. Long term habits develop as routine nerve pathways between brain cells where an initial action may stimulate the rest of the routine habit. Having routines embedded in our memories may help to save us time when we’re performing routine activities like household chores or driving home from work but it may interfere when trying to replace an old habit with a new habit. Routines may save energy for the mind to wander to other thoughts while the familiar chore is being performed.

The ability to form new pathways in the brain may also help to reduce the negative effects of stress. (G3.1) Games that are designed to boost brain plasticity may simply be boosting our ability to take tests. More research is needed to better understand neuroplasticity and how we can change old habits by changing the old neural pathways. (G3.2)

In the meantime learning new words has been found to stimulate reward pathways in the brain. And it was found that people with stronger connections between the two regions of the brain involved in the reward pathways were able to learn more words than people with weaker connections. (G3.3)

Poetry may activate the brain similarly to music by helping increase brain connectivity in a way that is similar to what occurs when someone is listening to or composing music. (G2.1)

Meditation & Mindfulness Training can help an overanxious brain.

Mindfulness Training can help increase awareness of the issues that may be exciting or infuriating, but at a wordless subconscious level so they may go unnoticed and lead to behaviors that don’t seem to have a obvious reason or cause: How Mindfulness Helped a Workplace Diversity Exercise: (12.22)

And other research suggests that meditation and having a sense of purpose in life may help reduce some of the negative effects of stress which include cellular changes associated with aging. (G3.4)

Communication or Assertiveness Training may help reduce stress by improving effectiveness of conversation and by increasing the likelihood of having pleasant exchanges rather than difficult ones.

Communication difficulties can lead to direct stress effects on the body that occur during the conversation, lack of oxygen itself from tensely holding the breath, talking too fast or crying, might also add to negative effects of oxidative stress.  Stress might also occur over time from the resulting lack of progress on the topic that was being discussed with difficulty instead of with clear exchange of each persons priorities, concerns, and goals.

Issues from our childhood with communication problems we observed in our parent’s or other caregiver’s conversation may show up in our own behaviors. Role playing in a group may help reveal where other people’s typical responses are different than what you might have responded yourself. Role playing can help provide a safe place to practice new communication techniques with people who understand the technique and that it is practice. The strategy is used in Family Systems Therapy but power struggles can be part of many types of relationships not just within families.

Training materials about equality within a conversation or within a relationship were developed for helping victims of domestic violence and batterers learn how to recognize problem behaviors within their communication and actions. The handouts may be helpful for most age groups as emotional manipulation or abuse of power and control can occur in many types of relationships not just between couples. Discussing the difference between equal exchanges in a conversation and unequal ones in a calm neutral setting may be helpful to prevent a difficult exchange from ever happening in the first place.

  • Power and Control and Equality Wheels  The Power and Control Wheel (I.21) was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP). (I.22) Manipulative behaviors are grouped into eight categories in the model. An additional Equality Wheel (I.23) was developed to help guide batterers and victims of emotional or physical abuse towards healthier ways to interact. It is grouped into eight equivalent categories with examples of healthier ways to interact with each other. Problems frequently can involve communication issues by both people in a relationship.

Crisis Hotlines and Resources:

  • U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday. (I.16.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
  • National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.”  (I.17.samhsa.org)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (I.18.RAINN.org)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 24/7 confidential support at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. (I.19.thehotline.org)
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway: a variety of toll-free hotline numbers for concerns involving the safety of children. (I.20)

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

References:

  1. Don Joseph Goewey, Stress, the Brain and the Neuroscience of Successs, Huffingtonpost.com, Aug. 10, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-joseph-goewey-/stress-success_b_5652874.html (G3.1)
  2. Gary Stix, Neuroplasticity: New Clues to Just How Much the Adult Brain Can Change. Scientificamerican.com, July 14, 2014,  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/2014/07/14/neuroplasticity-new-clues-to-just-how-much-the-adult-brain-can-change/ (G3.2)
  3. P. Ripollés,  Marco-Pallarés, U. Hielscher, A. Mestres-Missé, C. Tempelmann, H. Heinze, A. Rodríguez-Fornellsi, T. Noesselt, The Role of Reward in Word Learning and Its Implications for Language Acquisition, Current Biology, Volume 24, Issue 21, p2606–2611, 3 November 2014 http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)01207-X (G3.3)
  4. James Hamblin, Health Tip: Find Purpose in Life, theatlantic.com, Nov. 3 2014,  http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/live-on-purpose/382252/ (G3.4)

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