Stress & Designs for Strong Minds™
Our brains are not computers but highly efficient filters.
We are basically unconscious to most of the stimuli our
senses are bombarded with throughout the day because our
brains are such good filters. These filters are structured
through our genes and experiences. That's why we don't
have to expend energy thinking about how to do each and
every little thing—like walking across the room or brushing
our teeth or reading a newspaper. At one time we had to
think about these things, when we were first learning to
do them. And if we sustain a severe injury, we might have
to learn to do them again or differently. But ordinarily,
once we've learned a routine, we no longer have to pay
conscious attention to it. In fact it becomes difficult
to stop doing it and just think about it. For instance,
try to remember how you learned to read. It's even hard
to remember not being able to read.
Our brains are works in progress. They are constantly
restructuring based on the demands of our environments.
The more we do something, the more automatic it becomes.
This enables us to multi-task. If we had to give full attention
to each and everything we do throughout the day, we'd get
very little done and be thoroughly exhausted. Thinking
requires effort because thinking is the process by which
new neural connections are created in our brains.
That 3 pound pile of mush we call our brains uses 20%
of our energy resources. The more thinking we do, the more
calories we burn. So, thinking is actually good exercise.
And what happens in our brains is similar to what happens
to our muscles once we get into an exercise program.
Chronic stress compromises problem-solving. We're all
still experiencing the stress of 9/11, the sense of vulnerability
whenever we hear about a terrorist attack or terrorist
alert. There is also the economic uncertainty of a jobless
recovery. In addition, many people in their middle years
have the dual responsibility of sending their kids to college
and providing for their aging parents.
Under stress our brains produce hormones such as cortisol
and adrenaline—commonly referred to as the "flight or flight"
reaction. The persistent and overproduction of these hormones
can increase aggressiveness and lead to violent behavior
such as road rage. Long-term effects of elevated stress
hormones can also damage a part of the brain called the
hippocampus which is essential to working memory and new
learning. Consequently, our ability to "think outside the
box" when we need it most can be greatly impeded.
Among other things Design for Strong
Minds Programs (DSM)
were developed to counteract the effects of stress through
a controlled rehearsal process (kind of like practicing
a tennis stroke) that encourages the formation of new neural
connections within the brain. The training is provided
through puzzles that help people handle increasing numbers
of variables. In addition, people learn there are different
ways of organizing information and each way produces a
different result. This often surprises people. We expect
others to see things the same way we do.
Once we've practiced experiencing the world from somebody
else's perspective, many of the irritations, frustrations,
and hostilities we've met with fade away. We have a greater
understanding of how other people think and what they are
trying to communicate to us. What we've done is expanded
our ability to channel stimuli through multiple filters.
Consequently, we've expanded our awareness and can function
more efficiently and more effectively in an ever-changing
© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates