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  • Abby Tang: How are you feeling?

  • Graham Flanagan: I literally played that song,

  • You had a bad day

  • Alex Appolonia: I wrote down some points

  • because my brain is like mush lately.

  • Fran Lam: Sad,

  • worried,

  • stressed.

  • Victoria Barranco: Physically, like all of

  • the negative emotions.

  • Abby: This probably sounds super familiar,

  • and that's because a lot of us

  • are feeling stressed right now.

  • But this isn't normal stress.

  • This is pandemic stress,

  • and it is messing with our brains in a very specific way.

  • When you get stressed, it triggers a chain reaction

  • that starts in the amygdala,

  • your emotional-processing headquarters.

  • Your eyes and ears send info to the amygdala,

  • and it determines if what you're seeing

  • and hearing is stressful.

  • If it is, it sends a signal

  • to your command center, the hypothalamus.

  • It's in charge of getting the word out

  • to the rest of your body

  • by way of the autonomic nervous system.

  • The adrenal glands get the message first

  • and pump adrenaline into your bloodstream.

  • Your heart beats faster;

  • you breathe more rapidly

  • because your muscles need extra blood

  • and your brain needs extra oxygen.

  • They're preparing to react to whatever threat

  • is causing your stress response.

  • All of this happens in the blink of an eye.

  • It's like how people can jump out of the way of a car

  • without really thinking about it.

  • The emotional amygdala

  • basically overrides your prefrontal cortex,

  • the part of your brain where all the logic happens.

  • So you don't get a chance to think things through;

  • you just react.

  • Once the threat dies down, though,

  • the parasympathetic nervous system takes over

  • and returns all those heightened reactions to normal.

  • But if the brain still detects danger

  • after the initial adrenaline rush,

  • the hypothalamus sends out another message

  • to the rest of the HPA axis.

  • This triggers another series of hormones

  • that lead to the release of cortisol,

  • which signals to the body that it needs

  • to stay on high alert and keep pumping out stress hormones.

  • Right now for a lot of us,

  • that threat is still very much alive.

  • The amygdala is still overriding the prefrontal cortex,

  • which is in charge of decision making and planning.

  • So those feelings of forgetfulness and tiredness,

  • they're likely a product of this stress response

  • that won't turn off.

  • Stress hormones and the accompanying bodily responses

  • are super helpful in the short term,

  • but our bodies aren't meant to function in this

  • heightened state for weeks or months at a time.

  • And over time, your brain will burn out.

  • When it does, it can lead to something

  • called allostatic load,

  • the cumulative wear and tear that happens to your body

  • when you're dealing with chronic stress.

  • A high, prolonged level of cortisol

  • can mess with a lot of stuff.

  • It's even been seen to decrease the volume

  • of your hippocampus,

  • the area responsible for learning and memory,

  • and a reduced hippocampus is more often seen in people

  • with depression than those without.

  • So all this is to say that

  • the extra stress is probably not doing

  • your brain or your body any favors.

  • And humans are historically really bad at making decisions

  • when they don't know what's going to happen.

  • So, what can you do to reduce allostatic load?

  • Reduce stress.

  • Eating well, exercising,

  • and maintaining a regular sleep schedule

  • cannot be overlooked.

  • Exercising alone can reduce stress hormones,

  • even with just a 20-minute walk.

  • And a different way of thinking could also help us:

  • an idea called model-free learning.

  • It's basically trial and error.

  • Instead of basing your risk assessment

  • on similar examples from the past

  • or envisioning future scenarios,

  • you just take it one step at a time.

  • This way, you reassess and update your own estimate

  • of what's happening and how to prepare.

  • We're dealing with a new virus,

  • constantly changing policies,

  • and likely a completely different schedule

  • and maybe even environment.

  • Our brain is on high alert at all times

  • to identify potential threats.

  • Which means that even if you're spending

  • most of your time laying around,

  • your brain isn't,

  • so try not to beat yourself up

  • for feeling tired or fuzzy or unmotivated.

  • You just don't need anything else to stress about.

  • Now that you know all of this,

  • how are you feeling?

  • Alex: To be honest, I do still feel the same.

  • Fran: I think I'm feeling a bit better after watching it.

  • Victoria: It's actually my body is exhausted

  • from feeling things and being under stress

  • all day, all the time.

  • Graham: Whenever I feel that allostatic load

  • starting to weigh down on me,

  • you know, I can put a name on it, a face on it,

  • and it makes it a lot easier to deal with it.

Abby Tang: How are you feeling?

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What Coronavirus Stress Is Doing To Your Brain And Body

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/01/04
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