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Betsy Glass, LCSW: The Brain, Body, and Stress

Betsy Glass, LCSW Barton HealthDuring the course of our lives, we experience minor and major life-changing circumstances – sometimes intermittently and at other times a connected series of events. As a result, humans are consistently adapting to life’s ebbs and flows in an effort to maintain a sense of balance in our brain, body, and surrounding environment. In this balance, mild stress is necessary for motivation and healthy activation to complete everyday tasks. However, chronic or compounded stress, beyond reasonable everyday demands can overwhelm the functioning of our brain and body. Long-term, chronic stress becomes toxic, not only to our brain and body, but our relationships, job performance, and ability to manage everyday responsibilities.

Humans possess basic resources needed to manage and recover from stress. The brain and body are consistently working together to alleviate the mental and physical impacts of stress. However, this resilience can become compromised by repeated exposure to life-altering events, also known as trauma, in addition to biological predispositions to illness or disease. 

When resilience is weakened, our body’s cognitive and physiological functioning decreases, reducing our capacity to learn, focus or concentrate, retain memory, or make decisions. As resiliency declines, so does our health; high blood pressure and heart conditions, compromised immunity, muscle tension and pain, as well as digestive and sleep disturbances are all common issues faced by those who are in a state of chronic stress. Brain and body impairments can also make common, everyday stressors seem overwhelming, and further deplete the internal resources required for healing and recover. Long-term exposure to toxic or chronic stress makes it more difficult to recover from the demands of everyday life, and creates susceptibility to mental and physical health disorders.  

Overall wellness and the resilience of a person will determine how they respond to trauma or stress. Therefore, it is important to integrate everyday stress reduction and self-care strategies for strengthening resilience. Simple ways to do this include connecting with your community, asking for help and seeking support through community resources, establish boundaries in relationships and at work, as well as maintain an exercise, nutrition, and sleep schedule. There are mobile apps that you can download or community classes to help practice everyday mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and breathing exercises that manage stress. 

Seeking professional help is common and beneficial for your mental and physical health. The Barton Health and Wellness Directory, available throughout our community and online at bartonhealth.org/healthdirectory, is a great place to begin strengthening your support system and find resources.
Betsy Glass, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Barton Community Health Center in South Lake Tahoe.

Learn about building resiliency and get resources for managing the brain, body and stress at Barton Health's free community wellness lecture on Thursday, May 9, 2019 at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness in South Lake Tahoe from 6-7pm.