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stress and neuroplasticity


Early scientists and researchers believed that our brains were fully formed when we entered adulthood leaving us unable to change or alter our brain patterns. Thanks to modern research, we now know that that is not the case, in fact our brains are able to forge new connections and adapt over our lifespan. It is a concept known as neuroplasticity, and thanks to that, we know our brains are ever evolving and we no longer must believe we are exactly who we are and there is no changing. Why is this important? Because, we have the incredible ability to change any thought patterns and habits that no longer serve us.

Take your reactions to stress for instance, and not just normal everyday stress, chronic stress. Chronic stress can be easy to overlook if we have been experiencing it for a prolonged period and the things we use to cope with are deemed socially acceptable. Take notice next time you have a tough day, either at work or within your interpersonal relationships. Do you try to cope by getting lost in your favorite show? Or maybe you grab a cigarette or drink? Some may try to just make themselves busy as “stress is just a part of it”. Creating some distance from you and your stressors can be helpful, and other times it can cause the stress to compound as it may prevent it from truly being resolved. The more we reach for these habits the stronger our brain wires the connection to need them. If we do not develop awareness around these responses, we can degrade the ability to address the source of our stress and with it our ability to recover.

So what do we do? We tune in and we notice. Start by taking stock of what your current coping skills are? What does your body feel pulled to do when you have a bad day? Next, determine what purpose they serve. Is a short-term distraction until you can regulate and problem solve or is it a way to ignore and push it away in hopes it does not come back? Once you have gotten an understanding of the ways your brain has developed for handling your stress, it is time to start downsizing what you can, erecting boundaries around others, and for the rest, put together your personalized restoration plan. This plan should focus on mindful acts that nurture you, body and soul, exercise, nutrients, proper sleep! These acts, done regularly, can prevent your stressors from wreaking havoc on your physical and mental health. Day to day stress is an inevitable part of life, and we should focus on the ways we care for ourselves when recovering from stressors, not hiding from them.

If your stress level isn’t where you want it to be or you need support in other ways, The Refuge Center is a safe place to seek help!

You can contact us at 615-591-5262.

Blog written by Master’s Level Intern, Christina Reddon

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The Refuge Center for Counseling is a 501c3 nonprofit organization (20-3831943). We are also a United Way of Williamson County Partner Organization.