It’s spring break! But is it actually? Spring break is usually the time when students relax at home with their family, read a book for fun, or catch up with their friends at other universities. It is an opportunity to step away from the stress of school. I must have taken a wrong turn at some point because I do not feel any less stressed out this break than on any other school day, probably because I am catching up or trying to get a head start on schoolwork. I figured this is not a good thing and should actually make efforts to de-stress and relax, especially after the Biological Basis of Behavior lecture on stress.
It may seem obvious to us now that stress is not good for our health, but it is not that plain and simple. Acute stress or stress that occurs for short periods of time is actually beneficial in improving memory. Studies conducted on rats show that stress modulates conditioned fear responses (Cordero & Sandi, 1998), demonstrating that stress contains an important role in learning. On the other hand, chronic stress is detrimental to our health, impairing memory and damaging the hippocampus. Hippocampal damage is a serious matter because its atrophy is involved in disorders such as major depression, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific American posted an article on stress possibly driving neurodegenerative disorder (Neurostress: How stress may fuel neurodegenerative diseases). Chronic stress is what we want to avoid and we can do this by taking some time to relax and enjoying this break!
Note: I have been reading up a bit on stress management so be on the look out for that blog post, which should be out some time this week! In the meantime, spend some time with good company or watch a romantic comedy because as the old saying goes “laughter is the best medicine.” (I have not checked if this saying is supported by empirical research, but let me know if you know.)