Friday, July 8, 2011

The effect of stress on the brain

From the Harvard Business Review:

What toll does it take, over time, if you get too little sleep; skip breakfast or settle for something unhealthy; struggle with a relentlessly challenging commute; attend meeting after meeting with no breaks in between; pump yourself up through the day with multiple cups of coffee or sugary snacks; deal with hundreds of emails that accumulate in your inbox; remain at your desk for lunch if you eat lunch at all; push through fatigue in the afternoon; head home at night feeling exhausted, but continue to check email through the evening; work on the weekends; and limit your vacations to no more than a week or two, if you vacation at all?

. . . .

"Allostatic load" is a term coined by the neuroscientist Bruce McEwen that refers to the physiological consequences — most especially on the brain — of chronic exposure to relentless demand. When fight-or-flight hormones circulate in our body for too long, keeping our arousal high, they become toxic — not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

The most immediate problem with the fight-or-flight state is that our pre-frontal cortex begins to shut down. We become reactive rather than reflective. We lose precisely what we need most in these complex times: the capacity to think analytically and imaginatively; to embrace nuance and paradox rather than choosing up sides; and to take a long-term perspective rather than making the most expedient choice.

It's not good for us . . . .

To learn about ways to mitigate the effects of stress, click here.

(jbl).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2011/07/the-effect-of-stress-on-the-brain.html

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