Immunize Yourself Against Anxiety and Excessive Stress

Psychologically speaking, the most significant factors that will keep you from realizing the happiness and success to which you aspire are anxiety and excessive stress. Both of these contribute significantly to depression, as well.

Over 44 years of clinical practice and university teaching, I’ve heard people say time and time again, “I’m an anxious person; I was born that way.” Or they might say, “I don’t do well under stress.” Or perhaps they say, “I get psyched out really easily.”

Indeed, social anxiety inhibits your ability to make friends and engage with other people. Performance anxiety inhibits your ability to perform academically and athletically. Stage fright can cripple performers.

But here is the good news: According to Dr. Daniel Amen, in his 2013 TEDxTalk, “You are not stuck with the brain you have. You can make it better.” While Dr. Amen’s statement sounds like hyperbole, there is actually considerable evidence that not only is he correct but that you may be able to cultivate some degree of “immunity” from excessive stress. Think of it as a form of “psychological body armor.”

Neural pathways in your brain are malleable. Research has shown that your brain is highly responsive to both environmental stimuli, as well as to your thoughts and emotions (Volkow, 2010). This phenomenon is referred to as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows the brain to create functional neurological pathways and networks, as well as to reorganize previously existing pathways and networks in order to create the neurologic infrastructure for virtually every aspect of human behavior. This has important implications not only for adult learning, but also for our understanding of stress and anxiety and how to better manage them.

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