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'Isn't some stress a good thing?' Transcendental Meditation reduces stress, expands brain functioning, promotes higher performance

Ask the Doctors -    Translate This Article
30 August 2011

Cognitive learning expert Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D.,* answers a commonly asked question about effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique in promoting relief from stress.

Q: Isn't some stress a good thing? Doesn't it give us the edge to do things we might not get done otherwise, like meeting deadlines?
Dr. Grosswald:
Sometimes a deadline can increase motivation to get things done, but it really is a total misconception that people perform better under stress. In fact, the people who perform better in pressured situations are the very people who do not find those situations stressful. In other words, the pressure is merely stimulating to those people; if it were stressful to them, their performance would be affected.

If you think about it, when are you most likely to make mistakes? When you're tired, when you're stressed, and when you're doing things too quickly. Creativity comes from being clear-minded, calm and rested.

There's nothing wrong with occasional stress, but chronic stress is debilitating; and when you're really stressed, it is unlikely that creativity and performance are going to be at their peak.

The reason is that nature has provided us with a survival mechanism that shuts down the prefrontal cortex—the reasoning and analytical part of the brain—when under extreme stress. And what ''shutting down the brain'' means is that all the energy goes to the muscles; that is called the ''fight-or-flight'' response.

That works fine if you're being chased by a bear, but for day-to-day life, operating within that circumstance is really counterproductive. Basically, in some circumstances one rises to the occasion when there's pressure. But you don't want to live your daily life like that.

Rather, you want the pre-frontal cortex, the total brain operating. Then you can plan, organize, strategize, and be as productive, effective and creative as possible. What the TM technique does is increase the communication between the pre-frontal cortex and the other parts of the brain. The Transcendental Meditation technique expands brain functioning. Stress does the exact opposite.

Click here for more about Transcendental Meditation and the stress syndrome, including related research showing improved integration of personality, increased efficiency and productivity, reduced stress, and faster recovery from stress.

* Sarina Grosswald, Ed.D., is an expert in cognitive learning who recently directed the first-of-its-kind research study on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on children with language-based learning disabilities. Dr. Grosswald and her work have been extensively featured in the national media, including PBS and ABC News.

© Copyright 2011 American Association of Physicians Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Technique

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