Because of the all the rapid changes in our world these days most people are feeling some form of “stress.” How can you best support yourself in these times of rapid societal and economic changes? By doing neurofeedback training sessions!
Most people are feeling some significant stress in response to the financial downturn and general cultural sense of uncertainty. Spiritual advisors and practitioners tell us that we can choose how we respond to our environment and circumstances. And that is true. I believe it and I engage in my spiritual practice every day, by using prayer, visualizations, and affirmations and by opening myself up to spiritual guidance and opportunities.
However, as long as our brains are stuck in a stress response, our ability to constructively adapt to change is hampered. Our brain is hard-wired to respond to stress in a certain way. And unfortunately our culture has a pattern of hype and drama which fuels and intensifies our stress response. When the news media focus on exaggerated, sensational, and negatively arousing news to get listeners and viewers and the advertising revenues they bring, when we listen to the radio or watch TV our brains respond by going into high alert, and usually, some sort of fear response.
For example, yesterday (Wednesday) here in the New York area, newscasters started telling us, repeatedly, that on Friday it is going to get really cold …REALLY COLD, REALLY COLD, REALLY COLD!! Indeed some of my therapy clients came in for their session commenting on the cold and then said, “It’s going to be even colder on Friday!” I could see from body language that they had moved into a state of fearful anticipation and “emotional preparedness.”
I spent part of their session helping them learn that they let themselves be manipulated by the media and, in fact, were less prepared than ever for the possible upcoming (normal) winterish cold: Less prepared than ever because their brains were in a state of heightened stress, based on fearful imaginings about possibilities in the future.
When our brains are engaged in present reality, fully aware of the present moment, and calmly alert, THEN we are best prepared for whatever comes our way. When our brains are balanced and stable, they are more flexible and creative, without a stress response.
These were therapy clients, so I helped them with cognitive, interpersonal, and energy techniques, but had they been neurofeedback clients, they would have had a neurofeedback session—their brains would have taught themselves that they “didn’t need to go there” (to the alarmist weather preoccupations.) (And their brains would have also “worked on” whatever else was “up for them” at that time.) These clients would have come from their training session rested and renewed. They would not be draining their mental and physical energy in never-ending stress response loops, but instead would have come back into the present moment, into mental and emotional balance, with more brain power available for creative adaptation to all aspects of their lives, including the weather!
So, what happens to us and our brains in a stress response? And is it compounded by chronic stress? And what can neurofeedback (NF) training do about that?
What Happens in the Stress Response?
Here’s what happens in the stress response.
- The organism perceives danger (consciously or unconsciously.)
- The cerebral cortex sends the alarm to the hypothalamus.
- The hypothalamus stimulates the Sympathetic Nervous System.
- Adrenaline is secreted (to give the organism “quick bursts of energy.”)
- Physiological changes are: increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, increased blood pressure, speeding up of metabolism, and greater muscle tension. Blood goes to the large skeletal muscles (away from the gut, i.e. internal organs, and periphery, i.e., hands, feet.) Pupils dilate and hearing is more acute.
- Exhaustion, need for rest.
What Happens If a Person Experiences Chronic Stress?
If stress is chronic and there is no relief and rest, the organism’s energy will be depleted and physical symptoms will manifest, including:
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor memory
- Flushed face, cold hands/feet, palpitations, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, acid stomach, gas, muscle tensions/spasms
- Feeling conflicted, mood swings, insomnia, disorganization, hyper-reactivity
Over time, disease may manifest:
- Coronary disease
- Chronic hypertension
- Immune system problems
- Memory problems
- Difficulty making decisions
- Addictive patterns (alcohol, drugs, food, exercise, shopping, sex, Internet)
How Does Neurofeedback Help?
NF training, the way I do it (with NeuroCare Pro), helps the brain discontinue its automatic, habitual stress response. If you break the stress response loop before it has a chance to become more automatic and habitual, that is, before you’ve had months of ongoing stress, you can prevent your brain/body system from going into a chronic stress mode, which leaves people more at risk for physical and medical problems. How does NF interrupt the stress response?
In the simplest terms (my scientific blog about how it works at the physiological level is coming soon), when our brain goes into a maladaptive response, any maladaptive response, when doing this type of NF training the brain will get a simple message that “that thing you just did doesn’t serve you; you don’t need to do it; it’s not adaptive for you.” The message is delivered by an interruption in the beautiful, relaxing music you are listening to during your NF session. The brain takes that basic but powerful information and says to itself, “Oh okay. Thanks for the information. I won’t do that anymore,” and the pattern is interrupted, and soon discontinued. It IS that simple!
So, this is why neurofeedback is the best thing you can do for yourself in these times of rapid and unpredictable change. Your brain is your best asset. You will be able to deal with change better when your brain learns how to let go of unproductive stress cycles, freeing up your mental energy for more adaptive, creative and productive responses to whatever your circumstances are!