In the zone. It’s the place where athletes find extreme focus; getting out of their conscious brain and letting the muscle memory stored in their subconscious take over.
The technique works in any situation where we need to “get out of our head.” Moving past fears, psyching up for a challenge, reaching down deep for that last bit of strength are dramatic cases. Managing our health also requires a degree of that same commitment. It takes an intellectual awareness along with listening to one’s body, and brain.
The mind-body connection – where brain power translates to physical power and even healing – cannot be denied.
Look at all the ways to improve mind and body functions and it’s easy to see how they build on each other to create an upward spiral. Happiness brings a desire to dance. Accomplishment prompts us to stand up and cheer. Inspiration sets us into action.
Our mind and body seek to be in balance.
As we live longer, more and more of us will experience issues that come from aging, such as cognitive decline, memory and muscle loss, bone and joint issues, diminishing vision and hearing and increased susceptibility to metabolic diseases like diabetes.
So, why is there a trend toward earlier onset?
The stress in our lives hastens the aging process. What we need to know is that common stressors come from much more than a busy lifestyle. On the other end of the spectrum, a seemingly carefree individual may be under just as much systemic strain. Stress can also come from a positive event, such as wedding planning, a job promotion with new responsibilities or even a movie or video game that over-stimulates the senses.
For the average person, particularly in the United States, the biggest stressor, by far, is diet. Yes, stress comes by way of unhealthy habits that put us in direct physical harm.
Common ingredients in the food on store shelves, such as refined sugars, can be so far from removed their organic composition that our bodies don’t even recognize them as food. This causes an immune system reaction, just as if a virus had invaded the body. This one is worse, because the triggered reaction is ongoing.
The average person also has a hard time following a regime, whether it’s diet, hydration, or exercising the body or brain.
Is there an alternative?
Thankfully, there are many, from brain training to listening to your body, and heeding what it’s telling you. Understanding and utilizing the mind/body relationship and how each is affected by stressors is key.
For many, the proven method of biofeedback is working on a more targeted, highly-technological level with neurofeedback. At Neurocore Brain Performance Centers, relief is found for those with mental disorders that prevent them from living a normal life, including depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), migraine, memory, sleep and stress-related conditions.
Athletes who seek to extend their training to the brain find extreme focus and coping skills for anxiety and stress to allow them to take their game over the top.
Using real-time displays of brain activity, clients learn how to adjust their thinking to control what are typically involuntary
Stress plays a dual role when it comes to physical and mental conditions and intense situations, good or bad. It can be a cause or a symptom, or both.
It is natural and necessary, from time to time, i.e., the fight or flight response that focuses survival instincts. A burst of adrenaline or cortisone increases blood glucose levels, which is fine when combined with a physical response that causes those hormones to dissipate quickly. This is acute stress; normal and typically h
When stress responses are triggered frequently, these hormones start to do harm and the immune system is depleted, leaving an already weakened body and brain susceptible to free radicals within and environmental exposures, such as viruses and pollutants.
Episodic acute stress is often a symptom of a Type A personality, someone likely to over-extend and set unrealistic goals for themselves. They create their own chronic stress that can lead to life-threatening high blood pressure and heart disease. More proof that the mind can affect the body.
Chronic stress comes from daily pressures of life within a negative context. Not the typical demands of job, kids, relationships, finances and maintaining a household, but when any of these causes a person to feel unhappy, trapped and hopeless.
One of the biggest dangers of chronic stress is that most people accept it as part of life and don’t try to relieve it.
Another is that it is contagious, just like laughter, anger and other emotions. Scientists have discovered our brains have “mirror neurons,” that help us bond with others. That means we can also be stressed by their stress.
Recognizing this as “perceived stress” allows us to put up defenses against frantic energy others put out.
Ways to reduce stress in the moment generally involve lowering your heart rate so that your brain releases endorphins, which counteract cortisol. This can be done by deep breathing, exercising, laughing or listening to any music that makes you feel good.
Chances are, removing a significant amount of stress from your life is not an option, so recovery needs to be a priority.
Keep forgetting things? Brain in a fog? There’s a good chance you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. The first clue is waking up without feeling rejuvenated.
In studies, recall of a newly-learned skill came easily to those who experienced deep REM sleep, while those who slept lightly forgot.
REM cycles are not fully understood, but they seem to affect learning, memory and mood. Along with rapid eye movement, breathing quickens and the brain appears to be almost as active as when we are awake. Most dreams occur in this sleep phase, believed to be important organizational sessions where memories are consolidated.
Sleep deprivation can have widespread effects. It is blamed for about 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths annually. Behind the wheel, the sleep-deprived drive as badly or worse than if they were intoxicated.
What causes sleep deprivation? Anything from medical issues to pain, indigestion or bad habits. Existing conditions can cause poor sleep. Lack of sleep can make a medical condition worse. Everyone needs sufficient sleep to restore mind and body strength. It is one of the easy problems to address with treatment such as neurofeedback.
Poor sleep has been linked to depression and anxiety, heart disease, cancer, mental health, memory issues, reduced immunity and weight gain, and accounts for about $16 billion in medical costs each year. There is no quantifying the loss of productivity in the workplace.
Some helpful tips:
* Train yourself to sleep by maintaining a regular sleep schedule
* Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine close to bedtime
* Exercise and get some sunlight during the day
* Don’t eat at least two hours before bed if acid reflux is an issue
* Allow your bedroom to trigger thoughts of rest. Don’t watch TV or work in bed
* Don’t check your phone or other sources of blue or white light during the night. Your brain translates that as daylight and halts the production of melatonin, which keeps you asleep.
Most of us don’t need to be told how important exercise is, for burning calories, toning muscles and balance, promoting circulation and heart health, relieving migraines and indigestion, good sleep, that amazing deep breathing, as well as a chance to clear one’s head.
Don’t have the time or energy? Reminding ourselves of the benefits may provide the motivation.
New to the list is the discovery that the impact of feet hitting the ground while walking sends a hydraulic wave upward through the body, further increasing blood flow to the brain.
So, those brain-rejuvenating effects are actually a physical manifestation, linked to better cognitive function, improved memory and overall protection against decline.
Better still, benefits can be had by adding bursts of walking to your day. Don’t pick the closest parking spot. Walk around the field during your kid’s soccer game. Encourage yourself with a step tracker device or phone app. Use a group walk around the block to catch up with family and friends.
If you’re working on keeping your brain healthy, you’re helping your heart, too. And, studies have shown those living a heart-healthy lifestyle had less brain shrinkage to show for it. Yes, brains can shrink over time. Just like muscles, use it or lose it.
Not just exercise, but how and when matters.
The heart is a muscle, which controls a vascular system. It is especially important for those with heart conditions to follow a doctor-approved regimen to build that muscle’s strength. A popular practice is interval training; short, intense workouts followed by longer, less rigorous routines. The goal is to continually raise and lower your heart rate.
Another good option is any exercise that uses the most muscles, such as speed walking, dancing and swimming.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but annual checkups are an essential part of prevention. Anyone with a predisposition for heart issues – lifestyle, age, defects and genetic factors – should probably be checked more frequently.
Every year, about one in four Americans die from heart disease; an estimated 200,000 unnecessarily.
It’s safe to say those shocking statistics have a lot to do with nutrition. We hear about fats and carbs and think cutting them out of our diets is the answer. But these are essential elements of a diet. The key is eating the right ones. Oat bran, for instance, is high in carbohydrates but lowers cholesterol with its high soluble fiber content.
If you’re reading labels and rejecting foods with high fat content, you may be missing out on important, heart-healthy mono-saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids (alpha linolenic acid).
Check those labels for specific ingredients like sugar and saturated fats. Food products are manufactured to appeal to consumers, mainly on the basis of convenience and our cravings for the sweet and the salty. A good example is granola. A traditional mix of nuts, seeds, oats and dried fruit is terrific for healthy snacking. But the prepackaged bars tossed in the kids’ lunchboxes? They can easily contain up to three teaspoons refined sugar per bar, as well as other unhealthy sweeteners added to mislead consumers.
Some food additives, such as preservatives, or highly-processed foods can cause migraines.
Exercise can help relieve migraines by releasing endorphins.
Not everyone experiences headache pain, but the condition has an overall debilitating effect, which is made worse by pushing through. So many things can be triggers, including hormones, food sensitivities, allergens, sleep deprivation, brain chemical imbalance, even certain physical activity.
If you have migraines and don’t know why, keep a journal of activities prior to onset and look for patterns.
Some ways to prevent or help relieve migraine;
- Vitamin B12 or CoQ10 supplements. To be effective, larger than recommended doses may be needed. Check with your doctor.
- Yoga is great for anyone, especially those who may get migraines from rigorous workout. Any exercise that releases endorphins can relieve migraine.
- The anti-inflammatory benefits of an ice pack on the head or neck can ease symptoms.
Mental illness, in its various forms, affects more people than any physical illness. Chief among them is depression.
Depression is much more than sadness. It is a serious mental illness caused by chemical imbalances and is the leading cause of disability, affecting some 350 million people worldwide. The clinically depressed remain stigmatized as a whole because society views it as a weakness; something that can be shaken off. This is just one of the many reasons a large percentage do not seek treatment. Another is that it is not a basic benefit for all insurance plans.
There are many different types of depressive disorders, from psychotic to seasonal affective disorder. Just like any disease, it manifests differently from person to person.
Medication works for some, but it is far from ideal, often shunned for its side effects. That’s where brain training at Neurocore can have a big impact. Better function offers not just control, but a chance to overcome.
Some are opting for lifestyle changes, often along with brain training.
That brings us back to that heart and brain healthy diet, exercise, as well as neurofeedback, this time, for the potential to prevent and treat depression.
It’s easy to get #stressed on Mondays, so be sure to take a few deep breaths today! Repeated deep breaths will naturally bring your heart rate more in sync with your breath, causing your brain to release endorphins, which are chemicals that have a natural calming effect. pic.twitter.com/RHRk7GuUii
— Neurocore (@neurocore) April 16, 2018
The Mediterranean diet, for example, offers a unique combination of essential fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants that help preserve brain proteins. Studies have shown very significant results when it comes to heart health, and in places where the diet is the norm, Alzheimer’s disease is virtually non-existent.
The best way to be there for someone with depression is to acknowledge it, help them find a doctor, support group or ways to laugh.
Ever feel so down or frustrated, you just have to laugh? You’re not losing your mind. Your brain is resorting to a survival tactic. Laughter releases feel-good chemicals, like dopamine, that offset despair. Experts believe that a dopamine imbalance is a cause of depression.
Misconceptions about mental illness abound because it was and remains something we don’t talk about.
Think of ADHD and most envision a young boy who can’t sit still. While boys are twice as likely to be affected as girls, those whose symptoms persist into adulthood will represent close to an even gender split.
A prevalence of diagnoses in recent years doesn’t add up to quackery or overreacting parents, rather, increasing awareness. Brain scans show differences in brain development between those with and without the very real disorder. Some adults are now finding out this is what they have struggled with for years.
A silver lining; hyperfocus. It is believed to be caused by a deficiency of dopamine, the natural high chemical produced in the brain. Many students and executives credit this ADHD symptom for high levels of comprehension and productivity. If you have hyperfocus and want to use it to your advantage, try structuring activities by setting an alarm to end an unpleasant or boring task that requires keen concentration and follow it with a reward. This trains your brain to release on command.
If summer is waning and you feel sad, that’s not unusual. It probably means it was fun and relaxing. But if that sadness feels more like depression, the diagnosis could be SAD, seasonal affective disorder.
It can occur with any change of season, but usually as autumn and winter approach. Lack of sunlight may be the cause, as SAD becomes more prevalent moving away from the equator, where winter days are shorter. Serotonin, another happiness brain chemical, is triggered by sunlight.
Circadian rhythm and melatonin production may be disrupted. Both regulate sleep, the lack of which can add to the list of symptoms that mirror depression. Some get relief by using simulated sunlight to reset circadian rhythms, or blue or white light to trigger serotonin.
The condition may be genetic. It primarily affects women ages 15 to 55.
Is it stress, or anxiety?
Both have many of the same symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, dry mouth and shaky hands.
What’s the difference?
A chronic anxiety attack happens for no apparent reason. It can build on itself, essentially feeling anxious about being anxious. Under high stress conditions, an already anxious person can be pushed into a panic attack, with frightening symptoms that mimic a heart attack.
Falling under the anxiety umbrella are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Where stress is a matter of circumstances and how a person deals with them, anxiety can be genetic, caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, by environmental factors or differences in perceptions. An anxious person is often more in tune to facial expressions and is likely to put a negative spin on their interpretation of how others feel.
About 40 million adults – 18 percent of the U.S. population – suffer from one or more of these disorders, yet only about a third receive treatment. It is very treatable, in some cases, with exercise.
Research has shown that diet may be a factor. In the same vein that bodies are stressed from poor nutrition, people who eat a lot of processed, sugar-laden and fried foods are more likely to suffer from anxiety.
Interestingly, the disorder offers a look at how emotions and physical functions mesh. Normally, odor processing is done by the olfactory system. In an anxious person, emotions can put their own spin on how the brain interprets, and even a neutral smell can smell bad.
On the up side, people with social anxiety may not feel popular, but are actually perceived as sensitive. It is believed this is because they fear offending others and consider the impact of their words before they speak.
Balance is what our brains are all about, which means they can be trained to function efficiently at Neurocore Brain Performance Centers. Neurofeedback is a safe, drug-free, non-invasive way to enhance the way the brain already learns.
It’s also another example of how the physical and psyche mesh. We know emotions trigger biological reactions, and vice versa. We typically find motivation to do the things we have to do with the promise of rewards. The rewards are for good behavior. It works the same for brain waves, allowing healthier habits and patterns to be established.
Take a deep breath.
We’ve all been told this when confronting a time of great stress, anger or anxiety, and need a moment to refocus. It turns out it’s probably the best thing you can do.
When we are under stress, even the day-to-day kind, we tend to breathe shallowly. We are designed to be physically active, which requires deep breathing. Now, deep breathing is more likely to happen only when we remind ourselves or when our bodies go into survival mode.
With full breaths, your heartrate slows and endorphins are released. Their calming effect puts us in a more coping place.
To relax quickly and effectively, try meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Those who say they have no time for it probably need it most and will find those few moments a good investment in productivity and overall health.
Deep breathing is the basis of either technique. The brain uses 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Giving it more of what it craves can improve neuroplasticity – the ability to form new neural connections – and increase clarity and alertness.
Not to forget memory, pretty much everything mentioned prior can have an impact on the cognitive functions of our brain. Good exercise, good nutrition, good sleep, good mental health.
As life expectancies rise, so do opportunities to study the aging brain and break some myths, first and foremost that we cannot expect full brain function at an advanced age.
Our brain function is mostly electrical, full of neural connections that can be diminished or lost. Or, they can be strengthened and new ones created. This neuroplasticity, a sort of re-wiring, is how we can learn new skills.
The stereotypical grumpy old person may not be suffering physically as we presume but may have declined into a state of confusion and anxiety, where the ability to interact appropriately is lost. Brain training can result in a sharper memory, improved focus, better sleep, less anxiety, and a more stable mood.
For further information on Neurocore Brain Training Centers connect with them on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.