What’s more personal these days than stress?
Whether it’s stress in your students, stress in your own family or life, it seems that it’s on the rise. You might be feeling the twinge from job insecurity, school testing, your health, your parent’s health, or issues with your own kids.
None of this sounds good. But, what does stress REALLY do to your body and your brain?
First, let’s get something squared away. Stress is real; it’s the body’s response. It’s what you feel. But it’s only the response to a perception. The perception could be real or imagined. But it’s always the perception of loss of control over an adverse situation or person. In other words, the stress you experience is always about how you deal with life.
There are no stressful jobs, no stressful people and certainly no stressful classrooms. But there are teachers who experience stress in their dealings with those issues. If you think the stress is “out there,” you’ll always be miserable. Why? The world “out there” will never change.
But your brain is malleable; you’ve heard me say that for years. If you allow yourself to experience life as highly stressful, your brain will adapt to that higher stress load. It’s called “allostasis”; the word means “adjusted stability.” Your brain literally resets its own stress thermostat, so a higher stress load becomes the “new norm.” Examples of a “new norm” are depression, general anxiety disorder, PTSD, and chronic stress disorders. Bruce McEwen from Rockefeller University is a pioneer in this field.
Why should you care about all this science? Why care about allostasis and chronic aging? We’ll get to that in a moment. Read more