21 Stress Reduction Tips from Neuroscience during COVID-19
- 1 hour on-demand video
- 11 articles
- 14 downloadable resources
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- Breathing and movement exercises scientifically verified to improve your health, a basic neuroscience framework for emotional intelligence, new perspectives on stress, how to develop resilience, content specific to the Coronavirus
- A body to participate and a mind to learn!
This class features a unique combination of stress reduction exercises and informative science to improve your health during the Coronavirus. Who doesn't want to learn while also relaxing and having fun? Voted my best neuroscience lecture because you learn while lowering your stress. This also means that you will retain the material better, (since "affect-loaded experiences have a greater likelihood of being retained by the brain than cognitive based material," [Beaudoin and Zimmerman, 2011, p.12]).
The class demonstrates 21 exercises to improve mood and immunity, (with the bonus exercise and handouts [located in the "Settling in" and "Tip #4" sections] the course includes a total of 40 exercises). The free preview ends discussing the definition of integration which is high differentiation and high linkage. In the relational neuroscience framework being taught, integration equals health and is what you need in order to become more resilient to stress. Every exercise you practice during this class involves differentiating (separating from) and linking in various ways. The more you differentiate and link, the more integrated you become; the higher the level of your integration, the more you experience positive emotions. This class is intending to both teach and give an experience of integration.
Many of these exercises highlight the breath because it is a tool to help merge the sympathetic nervous system (breathing in) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which comes more strongly online with long exhales). You're taught both practical exercises, (a more left hemispheric focus,) and visualization methods especially focused on kindness and self-compassion, (based on compassion researchers and educators like Dr. Kelly McGonical, Tara Brach, and Dr. Kristin Neff).
Immediately after the explanation on integration, you learn about how to widen what's called your "window of tolerance" or "optimal arousal zone," and how a wider window means an increased capacity to tolerate and manage stress. Since this is not intended to be a more in-depth class on relational neuroscience (interpersonal neurobiology,) the explanation is brief and quickly moves into more relaxation exercises. (Additional handouts are included for those who want more information.) The class focus is cultivating that rest and digest, parasympathetic state, then also educating the listener on the quickest and easiest ways according to science to get there and stay there.
Highlights: Getting you into a relaxed state, practicing together as you learn exercises that you can use throughout your life, an explanation for Dr. Dan Siegel's 3 Pillars of Mind Training especially kind intention and why kindness is the quickest path to achieving your brain's capacity for excellent executive function, a breathing technique from an ER physician to prepare for or fight COVID-19, a scientist's guided light meditation evoking the endorphin-producing capacities of the periaqueductal gray.
- Busy professionals who value neuroscience and mindfulness research, anyone needing some stress reduction now
Crockett welcomes listeners to settle into their bodies and fully participate in this next hour of brain fitness.
Simple exercise yet powerful especially if you can imagine yourself in full superhero form.
Fancy name for a technique we've all seen cats do but maybe never imagined would help us. Don't you love that the stress reducing effects of pandiculation have been studied?
This technique promotes integration by forcing you to differentiate and link in new ways. It's one example of what's generally called "externalization," this is where you take something inside of you, like anxiety, and you put it outside of you by using your imagination. The downloadable document explains 14 different uses for tip #4 and includes citations for the research supporting the 14 versions of this technique.
Crockett briefly outlines the relational neuroscience framework used during this lecture. Slides include the stress curve, the idea of managing nervous system arousal by staying within one's window of tolerance, and how the window is seen as a river of brain integration (neural integration). This is a short overview with more detailed handouts given for those who might be interested. This lecture is not intended to explain this framework further, please see her other neurobiology lectures like "Higher Reasoning vs. Stuck Thinking" or "Neuroscience and No Drama Discipline," to gain a comprehensive understanding of it.
After explaining #5, Crockett expands the principle with an exercise that incorporates all three pillars of mind training. In the next series of exercises #8-10, you cultivate all three pillars as they are crucial according to neuroscience research to improve executive function or higher reasoning.
This is the description for Tip #6 as this tip was originally mentioned in the above "Tip #5" video, but here it is explained in more detail. For a less scientific name, Crockett likes terms like "lovefood" to think about the nourishing power of relationships. We know that people who receive more lovefood are at less risk of physical illness and have a greater ability to heal (see citation).
Crockett considers this exercise (combines #8-10) the most difficult and important exercise you'll do during this hour. You will grow your ability to
focus attention on the exercise and away from distraction,
to maintain an open awareness as to what is arising inside your mind and body as you do this visualization exercise, and
to conjure up kindness
You will also be using various skills in neurobiology like mental time travel, (autonoetic consciousness,) as well as promoting memory and narrative integration.
The video begins by explaining how sustained visualization can be more challenging for some (and gives the listener a technique to practice at minute 6 if they notice difficulty). She touches on how the limbic regions, sometimes called the "emotional brain," respond better to images rather than words. Then she mentions how integration is both a "noun," (more like a physical reality "this is what it is" and in that sense, there are practical things you can always do to address it,) and a "verb," (more like an unfolding process separate from form or structure). Her point is that to promote integration you have to do exercises that cultivate both and this is her aim throughout the lecture. Apparently trauma can make it harder to reside in that more formless, less structured space that comes from exercises that focus on "open awareness," and in that case, it is better when someone is new to mindfulness to do a body scan.
This exercise uses mental time time and promotes memory and narrative integration. Crockett brings in a breathing technique commonly used in physical therapy to ease tension in the lower back and lower blood pressure by emphasizing the exhale. The technique shifts the nervous system into a parasympathetic, rest and digest state of ease. The video ends explaining how the core technique demonstrated in Tips #8 and #9 can be used in a multitude of ways to reduce stress and improve immunity.
Crockett begins by demonstrating a breathing exercise that Dr. Weil likes to teach, then she introduces an ER physician's breathing technique that is similar to Dr. Weil's that stimulates the lungs and could help with Covid-19 symptoms like congestion.
*Disclaimer: the video is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your physician first before starting any new program or exercise.
This final exercise uses research from Kelly McGonigal, PhD.
Crockett mentions the science of memory reconsolidation (MR) at the very end of the lecture, see resources--video links--if you're interested in learning more about it. The techniques taught in this class (especially tips #8-10) were designed with the science of MR in mind. Crockett has found that MR is the most effective technique she's ever come across to help with memory integration, as it helps stop the looping that can happen with bad memories and if done effectively, removes the charge (not the actual memory). Her message is that you can become your own neurosurgeon and use your mind to change your brain. It came be done with a counselor or individually once you know how to create what is called a "mismatch" or a "new meaning" experience, (see the 2 videos for an explanation).