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Chronic stress

Memo from your brain: Please excuse this disruption in service

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by: Mike Bundrant
Tags: chronic stress, brain function, health news

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Incessant mind chatter, spinning thoughts and the chronic bodily tensions that accompany an overactive mind are par for the course today. Most people who live with chronic stress seem to think it is just another symptom of high tech, full catastrophe living. No worries! We are all maxed out these days, right?


Chronic stress is not a necessary evil. It is a warning signal from your brain that you are in trouble. It's serious. Chronic body tension and a distracted mind, along with other symptoms such as distraction, memory lapse, anxiety, depressed mood, insomnia, increased or decreased appetite serve as memos from your brain that you are not receiving the service you need for optimal functioning. These disruptions need to be addressed by reducing or eliminating the source of chronic stress.

The most interesting research on the source of chronic stress points to the brain's default mode network (DMN). The DMN, active when your mind is not engaged in specific cognitive tasks, is responsible for the stream of self-referential thoughts or mind wandering that is commonly called "autopilot thinking." When the DMN is overactive, it becomes a source of chronic tension.

Most people today can identify with a mind that won't "turn off." Continual mental activity inhibits relaxation, connection to the environment and other people, peaceful sleep and keeps you in a state of chronic distraction and even self-consciousness.

Scientific research has linked hyperactivity in the DMN to depression, ADHD, insomnia, PTSD and other health conditions. What can be done about it? It turns out that you can deactivate this noisy brain network whenever it acts up. If you're skeptical, so were researchers. Marcus Raichle, MD, the original DMN researcher, explained in the March 2010 edition of Scientific American:

"In 1998 we even had a paper on such findings rejected because one referee suggested that the reported decrease in [DMN] activity was an error in our data. The circuits, the reviewer asserted, were actually being switched on at rest and switched off during the [cognitive] task. Other researchers, however, reproduced our results for both the medial parietal cortex -- and the medial prefrontal cortex (involved with imagining what other people are thinking as well as aspects of our emotional state). Both areas are now considered major hubs of the DMN."

It boils down to this: You can "turn off" the part of the brain that destroys your inner peace. Engaging in specific kinds of cognitive tasks, also known as awareness practices, has been scientifically proven to alter brain circuitry (not just brain chemistry, but actual circuitry) without the use of drugs.

When awareness practices involve connecting to the external world, as with many Zen practices and some variants of NLP or Neurolinguistic Programming, resting the DMN has proven particularly effective.

About the author:
Watch the free video The AHA! Process: An End to Self-Sabotage and discover the lost keys to personal transformation and emotional well-being that have been suppressed by mainstream mental health for decades.

The information in this video has been called the missing link in mental health and personal development. In a world full of shallow, quick-fix techniques, second rate psychology and pharmaceutical takeovers, real solutions have become nearly impossible to find. Click here to watch the presentation that will turn your world upside down.

Mike Bundrant is co-founder of the iNLP Center and host of Mental Health Exposed, a Natural News Radio program.

Follow Mike on Facebook for daily personal development tips.

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