The brain is composed of millions of specialized cells called neurons. Neurons send signals to other neurons using electro-chemical messengers called neuro-transmitters that attach to receiving sites located on the neurons themselves. There is a space between the end of the neuron and the receptor called the synaptic gap. As neuro-transmitter chemicals move across this gap, a small electrical charge is created.
a past history of trauma. When faced with stressful situations, you may find yourself totally stuck and unable to take action. Your challenge is to break free of your “frozen” state by rebooting your nervous system and reactivating the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” stress response. Physical movement that engages both your arms and legs, such as walking, swimming, running, dancing, climbing, or tai chi, can be particularly helpful. As you move, focus on your body and the sensations you feel in your limbs rather than on your thoughts. This mindfulness element can help your nervous system become “unstuck” and move on.
Dealing with sudden stress—a phone call with bad news, a last-minute assignment from your boss, or an argument with your spouse—triggers a cascade of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to stop. The first thing to do? Pay attention to your breathing pattern, and make an effort to start taking slow, deep breaths as stress relievers. “Breathing can change how we feel because emotions and breathing are closely connected,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “A revealing research study showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns.” In a follow-up study, participants actually started to feel the emotions that corresponded to an assigned breathing pattern. “This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath!” Dr. Seppala says. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain and may lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Effects on cortisol: The hormone cortisol is commonly associated with stress, and when levels are higher than usual, it can have a negative impact on the body. High levels of cortisol can lead to a range of conditions, including Cushing syndrome, menstrual cycle and female libido changes, anxiety, and depression. Dr. Giampapa noted a reduction of cortisol of up to 70-80 percent in several study participants.
I was raised on a farm, and in my youth I dug enough fence post holes to last a dozen lifetimes. My father used to joke that he gave me that chore so that I’d have lots of practice and get good at digging fence post holes. From a pragmatic point of view, the purpose of digging all those post holes was really not so that I’d become a better post hole digger, but so that I could plant posts in them. Once you dig a post hole to the correct depth you don’t keep on digging, trying to make the hole fancier or more aesthetically pleasing. You stick a post in that sucker, tamp the earth back in around it so that the post is secure, and then move on to dig the next hole.
Our state of mind, mood, energy level, motivation, and overall well-being all emerge out of the electrical energy produced by our brains. Do you want more control of your moods and thoughts every day? If so, brainwave entrainment is a method which greatly assists many people in finding greater relaxation, better moods, and less anxiety in a way similar to how music uplifts and rejuvenates us, and brainwave entrainment techniques are available embedded into musical arrangements, giving you the benefits of both modalities.
You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
Binaural-beat perception originates in the inferior colliculus of the midbrain and the superior olivary complex of the brainstem, where auditory signals from each ear are integrated and precipitate electrical impulses along neural pathways through the reticular formation up the midbrain to the thalamus, auditory cortex, and other cortical regions.
Most of the tips we’ve suggested provide immediate relief, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health, and has become popular in modern psychotherapy. From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem. Try joining a class.
When stress attacks, it can feel like your whole world is crashing down. Remind yourself what’s good in your life with a quick gratitude round-up. “Studies show gratitude techniques like counting your blessings can be a significant stress reducer,” Dr. Serani says. “Gratitude research reports that those who utilize daily gratitude reflections have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress.” Reminding yourself of the good things in life can put stress in perspective. “Studies show that cultivating an optimistic mindset can help you maintain a positive mood,” Whitaker says. “When you are positive and grateful, you are able to handle difficult situations better.” Just look out for these stress relievers that actually backfire.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.