Stress – or the body’s response to any demand – may not be all that bad in small doses. It can help us get through a short-term crisis, such as the first few days of a pandemic. But chronic stress — the ongoing kind, such as weeks’-long interruptions to our normal rhythms due to the coronavirus outbreak — is the stuff that can be a mental killer.

“That initial stress response to a situation is incredibly natural. It’s what we’re hard wired for,” said Stacy Vernon, a clinician at the Center for Brain Health, which is affiliated with The University of Texas at Dallas. “But when that initial physical stress response system gets locked in, that’s when problems come up.”

Thankfully, said Vernon, our brains are resilient. They adapt to change. And there are things we can do to better control mental health outcomes. She said it’s all about “moving into a resilient mindset.”

The conversation with Vernon was the first in a four-part, weekly AARP Texas Facebook Live series on brain health that Williams of AARP Texas will conduct. The series continues with these events:

* 2 p.m. Monday, June 1. The topic will be: “Caring for others with compassion is brain-healthy for us too.” The presenter is Audette Rackley, the head of Special Programs at the Center.

* 2 p.m. Monday, June 8. The topic will be: “Can we rebound from or regain cognitive losses? The presenter is Jennifer Zientz, head of Clinical Services at the Center.

* 2 pm. Monday, June 15, the topic will be: “Peak brain performance years: they don’t have to be in the rear-view mirror.” Zientz will again be the presenter.

 

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Published on AARP May 22, 2020