Stuck in a Rut? Science Says it's Natural! (And How Mindful Movement Can Help)

neuroplasticity resilience stress relief Apr 18, 2024

 

I have had a very stressful week, a feeling of overwhelm that I started to notice as a scary feeling like pressure in my head, little migraines,  and a host of other somatic symptoms I won't bore you with all the details- let’s just say I felt out of control. Luckily I know enough now not to ignore it, but to respond with some self-righting, which for me, usually means some days off, rest, and restorative exercise. 

Have you ever felt like you're stuck in a cycle of stress? Like no matter what you do, things just keep feeling overwhelming? Would it make you feel better to know it's not just you? This feeling of helplessness, often described as "learned helplessness," has been a topic of research for decades. But recent discoveries are shedding new light on this human phenomenon, and the good news is, it's not all doom and gloom!

I don't know about you, but after the week I’ve had, that’s the kind of news I need to hear! 

 

The Old Story: Learning to Give Up

In the past, scientists believed learned helplessness was a learned behavior. Animals exposed to inescapable shocks eventually stopped trying to escape, seemingly "learning" that their actions were pointless. This translated to human experience, suggesting that chronic stress could make us feel like giving up on improving our lives.

This is what I call an abiotic factor- abiotic means something in the environment that affects us, something we learn or conditions us, like cultural conditioning. 

 

The New Twist: Unlearning Passivity

However, recent research flips the script. It turns out, passivity in response to stress might be our body's natural defense mechanism. When faced with constant pressure, a brain region called the dorsal raphe nucleus kicks in, essentially hitting the brakes on our ability to take action.

The key takeaway? We're not necessarily "learning" helplessness; we're experiencing a biological response to prolonged stress.

 

The Power of Taking Control

But here's the even better news: this passivity isn't permanent. Another part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, one of my favorite brain regions, is responsible for recognizing control. When we experience situations where our actions make a difference, this region fires up, counteracting the dorsal raphe nucleus and that allows us to break free from the cycle of felt helplessness.

How Movement Can Help You Regain Control

This is where my work with movement comes in! NeuroMovementⓇ isn't just about physical benefits; it's a powerful tool for rewiring your brain. Here's how:

  • Stress Relief: Movement is a well-known stress reliever, which can help calm the dorsal raphe nucleus and its inhibitory effects.
  • Building Confidence: Learning and mastering new movement patterns can boost your sense of accomplishment and self-efficacy, fostering a "can-do" attitude. We work on somatically figuring stuff out.
  • Mind-Body Connection: Movement with attention, one of the 9 essentials of NeuroMovementⓇ can bridge the gap between your body and mind, allowing you to become more aware of your stress response and actively work to manage it.

By incorporating NeuroMovementⓇ into your life, you're not just getting stronger or more flexible; you're training your brain to recognize choices, take new actions,  and break free from the cycle of the feeling of helplessness.

I call that resilience!

So if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, Remember, you’re not powerless! And maybe by understanding the science behind stress and the role NeuroMovementⓇ can play, you can interact with creating your well-being and building a more resilient you.

If you’re ready to take that kind of action we have some awesome resources below to get you started!

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