Tag Archives: brain

hormones

How Stress Hormones Can Change Your Brain

When we are angry, we don’t feel very good, and that tends to make us do or say things that we later regret. We also might get so flustered that we lose track of what made us angry in the first place. We feel out-of-control. There is a reason for that. It has to do with the stress hormones our bodies release when we are angry—cortisol. 

Our post yesterday talked about the process in which our bodies and brains react when we get angry. Today we are talking about the impact these hormones have on our bodies once they are released. 

Elevated Cortisol

When our cortisol levels are elevated, our brain neurons take in too much calcium through their membranes. The calcium causes the cells to go haywire and fire too quickly, resulting in their death. 

Too much cortisol leads to a loss of neuron activity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, ultimately impairing your judgment. So rather than saying, “let’s talk about this,” you are saying “I hate you.” It’s not productive and you will probably regret it later. 

This is a great time to walk away from the situation, take a breath and calm down. Easier said than done, I know. 

Too much cortisol can also kill neurons and keep your brain from producing new ones. This is why it can be hard to remember what you should be saying, or what you wanted to say, in the heat of an argument. It also makes it harder to form short-term memories. So, later when you talk about the argument you had with your husband when he got home from work, you might not remember it exactly the way it happened. 

Decreased Serotonin

High cortisol levels lead to a decrease in serotonin (the happy hormone) levels. A decrease in serotonin adds fuel to the fire. It makes it easier to feel angry and more physically hurt. It also can explain why you might act aggressive or depressed when angry. They go together. 

Recognizing how these hormones can affect you, can make it easier to bounce back from an angry situation. If you know your serotonin levels are decreasing you can take steps to try to get them back again. A licensed counselor can help if you need some healthy coping mechanisms.

For a visual explanation of this process, visit https://www.nicabm.com/brain-how-anger-affects-your-brain-and-body-infographic-part-2/ 

Why tracking your teen’s sleep is important

Sleep is super important, especially for growing minds. It is as vital to your health as the food you eat and the water you drink. Yet so many of us, especially our children and teens, are not getting enough good quality zzzzs. 

The National Sleep Foundation reports that teens need between 8 and 10 hours of high quality sleep each night to function at their best, yet only 15 % report getting that much on school nights. Even if you know your child is going to bed at a certain time and waking up at a certain time each day, it is the quality of sleep that matters more than the quantity. Many teens and adults suffer from treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea but many don’t know it. By tracking your child’s sleep using a Fitbit, Apple watch or another device, you can get a better idea of how your child is really sleeping. 

Lack of sleep makes it hard to focus, contributing to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and solve problems. Tired kids and adults have a hard time learning and absorbing information.  It can also contribute to aggressive behaviors, unhealthy eating and weight gain, acne, and increased use of substances like alcohol and nicotine. 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help to treat insomnia and give your teen the tools he/she/they need to fall asleep and stay asleep. Other conditions like sleep apnea may require more medical attention. If your child is displaying unhealthy sleep patterns it is recommended that you seek advice from a licensed medical professional. 

Sleep needs to be a priority in your teen’s life. Limiting screen time, caffeinated drinks/pills, and stressful behaviors before bed along with setting a strict bedtime can help to establish a regular schedule and ensure your teen is getting the rest they need to function at their best. Keeping the same nighttime routine can make sleep easier. 

SOURCE:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep

What to do when your family doesn’t believe in mental health

I hear the argument against counseling and mental health all the time. People say “my family doesn’t believe in mental health and say I don’t need to see a therapist.” They think it is “unnecessary,” or a “waste of time,” “useless,” etc. But, think about it this way — who do you talk to about car problems? A mechanic. Who do you call when you have a sore throat or a cough that won’t go away? A doctor. Who do you see when you have pain in your tooth? A dentist. 

Those who don’t believe in mental health don’t know anything about mental health. You talk to your mechanic about your car, your doctor about your physical health, and your therapist about your mental health. Talk to your family about what they are competent in—maybe it is their opinions about cooking, sewing, sports, parenting, marriage, etc. But if you are struggling with emotional concerns, depression, anxiety, marital issues, parenting strategies, etc. talk to someone who is trained in these topics and can help to give you healthy tips to move forward positively in life. 

Wonders for the Willing

Therapy is one of those things that can do wonders for the willing. If you are open to the first step of coming into an office setting to try to improve your life, to work towards living your best days, then you could benefit greatly. Your friends and family might think they are helping by telling you that you don’t “need therapy” but there is nothing wrong with seeking help when you are struggling. In fact, that is a healthy step in the right direction—kind of like eating more vegetables, going to bed earlier, and exercising. 

Leave the mental health expertise to the mental health professionals and take care of you. 

This is why ‘mom brain’ exists

Moms are always doing a million different things — thinking about what to make for dinner when to get the laundry done, what to get at the grocery store, when to practice spelling words and work on that school project. We are answering calls from doctors offices, trying to schedule playdates, and for some, we are working on our careers outside the home. It is non-stop. We end up forgetting things, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and just “not ourselves.” This has become known as “mom brain.” 

The science of decision fatigue

Research from neuroscientists around the world point out some of the reasons why this phenomenon exists and it comes down to multitasking and decision fatigue. From the moment moms wake up to the moment they go to bed they are faced with question after question, tasks to be done, decisions to be made. If you have young kids chances are you often feel like your head is moving in a 100 different directions at one time. 

All of the stuff we are taking on on a daily basis is causing us to miss things, make mistakes, forget next steps. But, it’s not all bad research shows that our brains change after having children to be more responsive to our children and aware of their needs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any less exhausting. So what can we do to improve our “mom brain,” and improve our emotional health as parents? 

Start by implementing processes to minimize decisions. Establish routines and things will become commonplace rather than something you have to think about. For example, every night before you go to bed take care of lunches, clothing options, etc. Have the kids make their beds before they leave their rooms. Have them decide what they want for breakfast, and ask for their help in making lunches/breakfasts the night before. If you have school-age kids put a note on the front door to remind them of the things they need to bring to school with them and leave it up to them. Have them get in the habit of getting homework out and giving you all notes from teachers the second they get home from school. It is these small steps that can help minimize decision fatigue. 

Involve the rest of the family

Eliminate the dreaded meal choice by putting dinner options in a bag and having the children pick from it. Plan meals out on Sunday so you don’t have to worry about them the rest of the week. Stop trying to please everyone. Have those who complain about their meals make their own food. 

Remember lists are your friend. Use them. Write down what you need to accomplish for the day or the week and then you will feel like you have less running through your head. Organize your days and your thoughts will follow. 

Acknowledge that “mom brain” actually does exist, and understand you are not alone. Every mom is struggling to keep on top of everything (even if they look like they have it all figured out). It is ok to ask for help (in fact, it’s encouraged), and take time to care for you.

Source: 

Thrive Global 

Psychology Today

You can boost your willpower, here is how:

Just like the muscles in our legs and arms, our brains get tired too. When we spend all day making decision after decision — the willpower part of our brains gets spent. Without even potentially realizing it, you begin to make poor—or even completely avoid—decisions. It is called decision fatigue and scientists are just beginning to learn more about its potentially detrimental impact. 

Whether it be shopping, working, dieting, it is easier for us to make smart, educated, well-thought decisions in the morning before we have depleted so much of our energy. It is why it is easier to eat healthier breakfasts than dinners, and why we often reach for that piece of candy at the end of the day. Our brains are exhausted and our willpower is depleted. 

Think about building a home, or picking out clothes at the store, you are making decision after decision — what hardware to put where, what lighting fixture, where should the outlets go, do I want the purple shirt or the red shirt, is this dress too big, should I spend this much money, etc. Chances are at the end you feel like throwing in the towel. Or you say “ah screw it, I will just go with this one.” This is decision fatigue. The list can go on and on. But, by recognizing that decision fatigue exists and acknowledging its potentially damaging impact, you can make changes to your life to increase your willpower. 

Reduce decison fatigue

Here are some ways to get started reducing decision fatigue and boosting willpower:

1.) Plan reoccurring decisions ahead of time: Obviously you can’t plan every decision before it happens. That is just life. But many of the decisions that are draining our willpower are the ones we make over and over again. Things like what you are going to wear to work, what you are going to eat for lunch/breakfast/dinner, when you are going to hit up the gym, etc. This stuff you can plan before you go to bed at night so the next day you have willpower for the big stuff. 

2.) Whatever is most important in your day, do it first: Maybe it is exercising, getting a project done, getting the laundry folded, helping your child with a project, whatever it is wake up early and get it done. You are the freshest version of yourself when you wake up. Get up, get to it and start your day off on the right foot, it may even help the rest of the day to unfold smoother.

3.) Take care of you: It is hard to have willpower if you feel drained, unhealthy, unfit, bad about yourself, etc. Put time in your day to focus on yourself and make sure you are getting the proper fuel for your day.

4.) Make commitments, instead of decisions: Rather than getting down on yourself by constantly telling yourself you “want to lose weight,” “want to change jobs,” “want to start working out,” start doing it. You will have fewer decisions to make if you just rip the bandaid off and commit. 

5.) Fuel first: If a decision is coming at the end of the day, or maybe a big meeting at work, then take a break, refresh and eat something first. You will be more on top of your game if you can boost some of that brain fuel. 

6.) Keep it simple: Get rid of the things in your life that you don’t need. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t contribute to your wellbeing, that don’t provide joy. You don’t need to keep doing unnecessary tasks that are draining your energy. 

Your willpower is not always going to be at a steady level. That is impossible. But the first step to making changes is recognizing where the problems are and working to rectify them. It’s ok to put off a decision for a day rather than being impulsive. You can decide to get some rest first, just don’t avoid it completely. 

Sources: 

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

https://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue