What Stress Type is Your Brain?
“Your boss wants to see you now!” “Your appointment is downtown in 15 minutes and 395 is backed up.” “Seventy percent of your grade is based on the test tomorrow.” “We’d like you to give a talk to the group.” “And oh, by the way, it’s due tomorrow.” “We’ll hear your testimony now.” “Your test results are back.” “What’s for dinner?”
There’s no shortage of stressors in the Washington, D.C. area. Stress is tough to avoid, what you need is a way to change your brain’s response to stress and increase your ability to downshift into a less stressed mode when you have down time. Down time, what’s that? It may only be the few precious hours (minutes!) we get after commuting, homework, dinner, that extra work we brought home. Since down time is in such short supply we need to learn how to optimize our brain and body’s ability to relax and take advantage of it. And of course help it do the ultimate downshift into sleep at the end of the day.
Our overall brain activity is a mix of brainwaves at a lot of different frequencies at the same time (you can think of them as the different wavelengths of light or colors in a rainbow), some in greater quantities and strength than others. Balance is the key. We don't want to regularly produce too much or too little of any brainwave frequency. When the brainwaves get out of balance we usually experience symptoms of some sort.
This month we’ll look at the most common type of stressed brain--”beta brain”. NASA played a role in our conception of this type in its work monitoring the brain waves of pilots. They found that pilots who shifted into beta mode for in-flight maneuvers were quite effective. However, they also found that those who stayed in high levels of beta, burned out quickly, unable to sustain such effective performance. The pilots who were able to down-shift into a predominantly alpha state, or calm alert idle state after a maneuver were able to sustain peak performance over long periods. They operated efficiently, shifting into beta only when necessary, conserving brain power for when it was needed.
If you have a beta brain you are over producing beta typically in your right hemisphere, but it could be your whole brain. Beta waves are made when we’re actively thinking or problem-solving, a good thing. When there are too many of them it can be correlated with symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, muscle tension, headache, irritability, insomnia, and eventually exhaustion. You might feel like you can’t shut-off your busy brain to sleep at night. People might refer to you as being really wired. If you’re a kid with a beta brain you might be a night owl, fidget a lot, be sensitive to light or noise.
Neurofitness can help with beta brain. Using neurofeedback, a form of brain exercise, we can teach your brain to calm itself, to regain its ability to shift in and out of beta mode as needed during the day and sleep soundly at night.