Parental Anxiety – Is Your Stress Affecting Your Children?

Childhood is an incredible time of growing, learning and adjusting to new experiences but today’s children seem to be carrying increasing burdens of stress which can impact their development. There is a disturbing trend in which children as young as eight years old are showing high levels of anxiety and parents could be underestimating how their own stress may be affecting their children. [1]

How Stress is Impacting the Family

Research findings show that many families are facing a continual cycle of high stress and then attempting to handle their situations in unhealthy ways.[2] In our fast-paced society, a growing number of parents experience excessive stress that puts them at risk for developing chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

As parents, continual stress can have deep implications on children who are keenly aware of their parent’s behaviour and it can impact them on both psychological and physical levels. Studies have shown that excessive, chronic activation of the stress response in the body and brain can have damaging effects on healthy childhood development. [3]

3 Kinds of Stress Responses

An important aspect of any child’s growth is learning to deal with adversity and overcoming the challenges of life. When children face normal stressful situations and they are in a supportive environment, the result is the development of healthy stress response systems. But, if a child is exposed to extreme and chronic stress and their environment lacks supportive relationships, the result can be weakened bodily systems and impaired brain function. [3]

It is helpful to define three types of stress responses and the affects on the body [3]:

  1. Positive

    This type of stress response is perfectly normal and involves a brief increase in heart rate and temporary hormone elevations that are needed to deal with the challenging event. For a child, these situations could include the first day at school or pre-match jitters.

  2. Tolerable

    When a sudden or terrifying event occurs such as a severe injury or the loss of a loved one occurs, the body’s stress response goes into a high gear in order to cope with the emotional and physical effects of the situation. If the stress activation response is relatively short-lived and the child has the support of adults who can help him or her adapt to the circumstances, the brain and other organs are able to recover.

  3. Toxic

    This occurs when a child goes through severe, repeated and/or prolonged stressful circumstances including abuse, neglect, violence or even the accumulated burden of an unhealthy family environment without the needed buffer of supportive relationships. This kind of chronic stress activation can increase the likelihood of stress-related illnesses, cognitive dysfunction and health problems later in life.

Recognizing Signs of Stress in your Child

Every child reacts to stress in their own way and it is important for parents to be alert to possible signs of stress such as changes in behaviour, emotional eruptions, withdrawal, difficulty coping at school or chronic health problems. It is vital that parents dialogue with their children to understand how they are responding to stress and give them the needed support and encouragement. Teaching children about how to identify and manage their stress in healthy ways will help them to learn good behaviour patterns which they will benefit from in later life. [4]

Stress Management

As role models for their children, parents need to recognize their own stress and take action when circumstances are leading to toxic stress responses in the family. Even when the current situation cannot be changed there are steps that can be taken to alleviate the stress symptoms and assist the body and brain to handle pressurized situations. Lifestyle changes that can play an important role include eating a diet that is nutrient-rich, participating in regular exercise, ensuring everyone in the family gets sufficient rest and making a point of setting aside time for relaxation and family time.

Should the stressful circumstances be too overwhelming or if a parent is concerned about their child, professional counselling and support may help change perceptions of stress for a more positive outlook.

Complimentary Medication

Together with making lifestyle changes, it is beneficial to make use of nutrients, vitamins and botanical compounds that are proven to assist with mental fatigue and alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and despair in difficult circumstances.

NeuroVance is your 2 in 1 solution for stress and mental exhaustion as it contains individual plant-derived ingredients to help support healthy brain function and assist with mood regulation and concentration. The unique combination of natural compounds have few side effects making it ideal to be taken by adults and children over 12 years and no prescription is needed.

Stress doesn’t have to rule your life and take it’s toll on your family. Take action! Try NeuroVance today: 

Find out how serious your stress levels are with our FREE stress test here: 



Burnout looming?

Burnout is an advanced state of physical and mental exhaustion commonly triggered by the long-term involvement in emotionally-demanding situations. It occurs when committed, enthusiastic or devoted individuals become disillusioned or disheartened with a career, a cause or a relationship from which they used to derive a significant portion of their identity. Burnout leads to a complex set of emotions which include resentment, a sense of futility, feeling trapped and seeing no future. Although stress plays a role in its development, burnout differs in the sense that it lowers levels of hope, optimism and confidence. Burnout can take you past the point of caring what happens, not a good place to be for many reasons.

Identify the causes

Burnout is not caused solely by too much work or too many responsibilities. An assortment of complex dynamics plays a role. These include personality traits, lifestyle, poor communication channels, working within a dysfunctional team / system and being in conflict with the ethics / values / integrity of an organisation / team / partner. Being in the regular presence of demanding and ungrateful, self-centred individuals, especially when they themselves are under pressure, can easily become a potential boiling pot for disaster.

Revaluate your goals and priorities

Burnout is a sure sign that some key aspects of your life have become dysfunctional. These obviously require some correctional action. Start by re-establishing your original goals, desires and objectives in life. Are these still as important to you and how do they fit into your hierarchy of needs? Which have you been neglecting and does it really matter? Try to avoid sentimentality when considering these issues. Be practical and realistic in your judgement. Compare your input (contribution and sacrifice) with the output (financial and personal rewards) that you receive. Is it still a worthwhile investment, especially if you take a long-term view? Can your situation be improved, or is it perhaps time to quit and move on to a new beginning?

Think strategically

With any advanced state of despair, a condition called ‘emotional flooding’ sets in where desperation takes over and logic flies out the window. In a frantic attempt to alleviate your immediate anguish, you may tend to act somewhat irrationally or impulsively. Be aware of this and proceed with caution – you need to keep your eye on the baby as well as the bath water. Make sure that you give yourself sufficient time to formulate your thoughts in a logical manner before you act. It is crucial that you manage your stress levels during this period.

Use a supplement that assists with neurological function

People are quick to resort to a multivitamin during times of mental or physical exhaustion. The benefits of these, however, are not supported by medical science with many large trials not being able to demonstrate a measurable benefit. There are, however, some botanical and biological agents that can be used as a supplement with the significant potential to make a real difference. Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea), also known as “arctic root” or “golden root”, is a perennial plant that grows at high altitudes in the arctic regions of Europe and Asia. Extracts of the roots have been used in traditional Western medicine in Scandinavian and European countries to combat fatigue, reduce the effects of stress and to aid convalescence during illness. Preparations containing roseroot extract are typically used to increase concentration and enhance mental performance during times of emotional and physical hardship. NeuroVance, containing roseroot extract, has been designed to help you stay cool, calm and collected. Its multi-modal pharmaceutical action is achieved through its ability to enhance separate but interconnected components of brain function, thereby giving your brain a physiological advantage during demanding and stressful periods.

Take ownership

We are quick to want others to change. We also often want situations to alter so that we can be accommodated as individuals. Unfortunately, this is often unrealistic. A more practical approach may be to see if one can change one’s own attitude in order to bring about positive change. This will take effort and planning. Reactive individuals wait for opportunities or solutions to come to them. Proactive individuals, on the other hand, strive to create their own opportunities or solutions. The difference between taking the initiative and responsibility for bringing about change, rather than waiting for change to happen, is like chalk and cheese, especially when measured over a lifespan. Heading towards a state of burnout will virtually always prove a catalyst for change. It is also an opportunity to rediscover what works for you and what does now, ideally before your reach meltdown. This process will require courage and effort. Believe in yourself.

NeuroVance contains a blend of plant-derived phytochemical ingredients that optimise and support healthy brain function by giving your brain a physiological advantage during times of stress without acting as a sedative or stimulant.
Read More

How Conflict Causes Stress


Why proper techniques can save the day.

Key points:

  • Conflict is a leading contributor to elevated stress levels
  • Everyone can improve the manner in which they deal with conflict and be better off

Some people go to great lengths to avoid conflict. They suppress their own opinions, hide information from others or avoid contact. Whilst this strategy may work at the workplace where you can manage to fly under the radar, it’s very difficult to achieve in a close relationship. By constantly evading conflict, one slowly starts to develop feelings of resentment and bitterness, which slowly starts escalating. Over time, unresolved conflict, especially in a close relationship, inevitably leads to a significantly increased level of stress.

On the other side of the scale, there are individuals who easily engage in conflict at the drop of a hat. This is because they are not intimidated by others and are used to function in a volatile or hostile environment. In the process they benefit by blowing off steam. This helps them to vent their anger and get rid of frustration. However, in the process they often damage interpersonal relationships, especially with individuals more inclined to avoid conflict. Whilst initially being totally unaware of this happening, the long term consequences eventually become obvious when partnerships and relations turn pear shaped, causing stress.

Unless you are a recluse who lives in isolation, accept that conflict is a part of everyday life. In principle, conflict is simply a process of negotiation by means of communication. For a moment, let’s compare it to a game.

The players

Killman uses the following metaphors to illustrate how different personalities approach conflict:


These individuals believe it is easier to hide. They therefore deliberately steer clear of issues or situations that may cause potential tension. They also often avoid individuals that they are in conflict with. In essences, turtles are poorly equipped to deal with hostile emotions. Turtles tend to believe that it’s hopeless to try to resolve an issue, even if this means abandoning a close relationship, a career or a personal ambition. This approach is self-limiting and stumps career, income and personal development.


Sharks believe it is easier to attack. Their style is therefore to threaten or bully their opponents. They consider their own goals significantly more important than the task of preserving relationships. Their ambition is to achieve their own objective at any cost, without any real concern for someone else’s opinion or situation. Sharks often don’t mind if other people dislike or even despise them. In their worlds this is a minor inconvenience.

Teddy Bears

They value interpersonal relationships as significantly more important than achieving their own personal goals. To be liked and accepted by others is of great importance. They believe that conflict cannot really be discussed in a productive manner without harming a relationship and will therefore rather avoid it just so that they can live in harmony with others. To preserve a relationship, Teddy Bears will easily abandon their own personal goals, often at their own disadvantage.


They are concerned about their own goals as well as their relationship with other people. They are therefore more strategic and diplomatic in their approach and will naturally seek a compromise with others. With a bigger picture in mind, foxes are quite willing to sacrifice some of their goals and will try and persuade the other party to do the same.


Like foxes, they place a high value on their goals as well as their relationships, but are more philosophical in their approach. They differ from foxes in the sense that they often regard conflict as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. This trait makes owls more empathetic and nurturing.

The game

Besides the players, the game is also important. This is where strategy becomes important. Steven Covey describes the following strategic outcomes:


This authoritarian type approach is unfortunately the most common conflict-resolution style. It originates from the way we have been conditioned by society, our parents and our peers. It is based on the binary belief of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as defined by ‘either’ ‘or’ idea. If I am ‘right’, it therefore means that you must be ‘wrong’. The legal system takes this one step further. According to “fairness” principles, the party that is “right” must be rewarded, whilst the party that is “wrong” must be punished. This leads to the rather simplistic view that one can only achieve your goal at the expense of another.

To prove that you are “right”, especially when in reality, many versions, possibilities and interpretations of the real facts exist, can be rather tricky. Any technique to prove a point is therefore used. This includes aggression, intimidation, criticism, pulling rank and sarcasm, all highly ineffective forms of communication. Since the “losing” party’s needs are not addressed, win-lose conflict resolution within a relationship is frequently superficial and short term. For the “winner”, it may prove a hollow victory over the long term in the sense that it almost always has a negative effect on a relationship. In fact, win-lose usually paves the way for far worse conflict at a later stage.


This is the subservient, opposite of win–lose. Based on their conditioning, lose-win individuals naturally believe they will not get their way and that it is easier to give up and accept defeat in order to avoid more tension or hostility. These individuals are easily intimidated by more forceful or aggressive personalities, and often lack the courage to express themselves in company. In many ways, lose–win outcomes are worse than win–lose, as individuals tend to bury multiple emotions of disappointment, resentment and disillusionment. As a consequence, this may lead to cynicism and fragility, making lose–win individuals quick to resort to the “victim” role whilst accusing their opponents of being “bullies”. These suppressed feelings rarely disappear, usually bubbling up at some later stage in life to either ruin a new relationship, or present as a psychosomatic illness.


When two win-lose players become gridlocked and cannot achieve their personal goals at the other’s cost, wounded egos unleash a highly destructive consequence which results in dissatisfaction, anger or resentment. This is because both parties see the outcome as a personal loss, triggering the desire to get even by taking revenge, even if it requires costing more money, time and effort. Lose-lose is the philosophy of destruction. It often comes at significant personal cost as well as the potential to lose even more in future.


When both parties have a sincere and firm commitment to find a mutually-satisfying agreement, they are able to focus on a solution that will satisfy both parties. In the process emotions calm down and cognitive processes become more active. The ideal solution is usually shaped by three sets of needs, namely ‘yours’, ‘mine’ and ‘ours’. As a result, the future relationship is strengthened and respect is maintained. Win-win seeks mutual benefit in a cooperative, rather than a competitive arena. ‘Our’ solution is better than ‘mine’ or ‘yours’. Win-win is based on the abundance mentality, namely that there is enough for everyone to share.

No deal

If win-win fails, no-deal becomes the next best option. This is where both parties agree to disagree without judgement, resentment or anger. Disappointment may be present, but as a singular emotion, is not dominant enough to damage a relationship.

Applying the game to real life

We live in a world filled with hatred, suspicion and anger. Yet, all around us, various admirable and inspirational deeds are done by individuals who improve the world and the lives of others with kindness, compassion and understanding. This requires emotional control. Through the many daily hardships, we face at the coalface of life, we become stressed, overwhelmed and over-reactionary. Feeling cornered and pressurised, we get ready to take up arms and fight for our rights. Eventually the process blows out of proportion, facts become distorted and emotion escalates out of control. This all leads to significant stress.

With advanced conflict situations, especially with a romantic partner or spouse, a condition called ‘emotional flooding’ occurs as a result of the severe emotional turmoil suffered by both parties. When this happens, reason and hope fly out the window and conflict reaches a point of no return. Research has indicated that the majority of relationships at this stage of decay will inevitably dissolve. In such cases, the best possible solution is a ‘no-deal’. Unfortunately, this often results in ‘lose-lose’.

On the other hand, if there is still some hope, it is will always prove worth your while to try and resolve conflict by taking some proactive steps toward a ‘win-win’ solution. If this cannot be achieved, opt for the second best option, namely ‘no-deal’. Avoid ‘win-lose’ and ‘lose-win’, if you can, and ‘lose-lose’ like the plague.

Conflict is predominantly an emotional process. This means that if you think, rather that act, you will have a significant competitive advantage. To do so, you need to plan and speak properly. Like with any emotional skill, this will require some practice.

Strategic guidelines

Take charge

Always remember that you are the master of your own destiny, not the hapless victim of circumstances.

Consider your objective as well as the degree to which you want to preserve a relationship. What are the consequences of harming or perhaps totally ruining the relationship in question? Stay rational and objective. Consider the ideal outcome. Once this has been decided, proceed to the next step. All this will require is to have a conversation. This will require appropriate timing. Poor timing, or a conversation that may lead to confrontation in an inappropriate setting or in presence of others, can make the process unpredictable and may therefore be a recipe for a disaster.

Control your emotions

During any form of communication, it is important to prevent emotional escalation and avoid aggression. A conversation is no different. Accept the responsibility for managing your own emotions. If you remain calm, the other person will most likely also remain calm. If your intention is to be productive, this simple strategy will make it significantly easier for you to achieve your objective.

Control the other party’s emotions

Most people totally underestimate the role they play in influencing other people’s emotions. Just as one can easily provoke the other party, one can also help control their emotions. A good place to start is to mind your manners. Minimise the other party’s defensiveness by not saying anything personal or derogatory. Do not blame or accuse the other party, and do not to plead innocence, even if you believe that you are blameless (a rare occurrence). These highly ineffective communication techniques usually prove to be rather destructive.

Control the conversation

Listen to the other person point of view without interrupting or criticising them, no matter how exasperated or frustrated you may feel. If at any stage of the conversation the other party gets the notion that you are not listening or not getting their point, pattern interrupt will ensue. This means that the conversation may rewind back to start at the beginning. A good technique to reassure the other party that you are getting their point of view is to ask questions, rather than make premature assumptions or insinuations. Afterwards, verbally summarise all the main issues as accurately as possible by repeating what they have told you. Although this process may seem irritating and repetitive, it is crucial to a positive outcome, so pay attention to it. Communicate your thoughts and feelings about issues, rather than people. Remain calm at all times by keeping the ‘bigger picture’ in mind. Focus on achieving a positive outcome.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Marie Curie

Read More

Pressurised By Other people?

Seven steps to establish better boundaries.

Key points:

  • Your stress levels are directly linked to the quality of your inter-personal relationships
  • By establishing more effective boundaries you can significantly reduce your stress levels

Other people cause significant amounts of stress in our lives. This is often because we allow them to do so. Like a protective shield, boundaries safeguard us from others who deplete our emotional reserves and increase our stress levels with their constant demands or irritating and inconsiderate personalities.

If people consume too much of your time, invade your space, speak to you in a rude or sarcastic manner and you allow them to get away with it, they will for obvious reasons continue. If, on the other hand, you draw the line by clearly defining what you are prepared to put up with and what not, and then enforce these rules, you will stop them. Actually, the whole process boils down to the ability to say “NO”, something that you may not necessarily be good with. A few basic techniques can make a significant difference.

Drawing the line – the most difficult part!

Although the actual process of establishing a boundary is quite simple, most people find it hard to implement. The following philosophical debate illustrates why. Your friend, for example, asks you: “Shall I wear red or blue?” Unless you are going to a specific event like a sports day, your answer will most likely be based on personal preference. But what if your friend tells you he is going to cross a field belonging to a foul tempered bull know to hate red? Your answer now becomes a matter of moral choice. Should you, perhaps for the sake of mischief, tell him to wear red? It may perhaps be funny to watch him run, if you like that sort of humour, but what if he becomes injured? If so, are you to blame, or is it the bull’s fault?

If the bull cannot help but charge at anything red, can it be blamed for doing something that comes out of instinct? But if you have an instinctive compulsion to cause mischief, why can’t you use the same reason to claim innocence?

If you feel pushed around or manipulated, is it your fault for allowing it to happen, or is it the other person’s fault for being so inconsiderate, demanding and selfish? After all, if you see it in a philosophical sense, the other person may merely be acting out of instinct. The bottom line is that this sort of complexity always exists with any boundary issue, making the process of drawing the line somewhat difficult.

Seven steps to establish better boundaries.

Step 1- Keep it simple
Instead of getting yourself embroiled in philosophical complexity, take a proactive step towards making a decision. Base this decision on facts or specifics. If you are unhappy about an ‘issue’, then define the ‘issue’ as the problem. Once this has been done, stop analysing and start planning your solution. If more than one issue is proving a bugbear, start with the most annoying or frustrating ones.

Step 2- Communicate properly
Setting boundaries simply requires the ability to say “NO”. Saying NO in the correct manner will not get you into trouble, neither will it make you a nasty or difficult person. However, saying NO in the incorrect manner will, especially once you have allowed yourself to become emotionally overwhelmed or angry. Within seconds, hostile emotions are transferred between people and interpreted through subtle cues such as body language, tone of voice or facial expression. Prevent this from happening by focussing on the process of communication. Control your emotion and keep your eye on the ball.

Step 3 – Mind your manners
Being firm, fair and consistent earns you respect from other people. Being emotional, melodramatic or theatrical does not. It will be difficult to establish and enforce effective boundaries if you yourself are guilty of double standards. Raising the levels of respectable interpersonal behaviour and defining good manners means that you must stick to the same standards. Snide remarks, sarcasm, criticism, nagging, whining and hinting are all forms of irritating behaviour that should best be avoided.

Step 4 – Consider your timing
Timing is crucial if you want to get off to a good start. If, for example, your boss is personally so overwhelmed by work pressure that he/she is battling to get through the day, it may not be the best idea to insist on a discussion about your problems. Bad timing often proves a real deal-breaker. Be patient.

Step 5 – Prepare for a negative response
Do not be surprised if the other party becomes angry, aggressive, insulting, condescending or threatening. Part of your strategy should be to expect this. Avoid escalation by remaining calm and polite. Remember that the very people that you have a boundary problem with will, by their nature, be the ones who will try and domineer, emotionally manipulate or lay some sort of guilt complex on you. Look through this ploy and stand your ground.

Step 6 – Use a conflict management strategy
Whenever boundaries are defined, some degree of conflict will automatically ensure. Do not allow yourself to become intimidated by the prospect of conflict. It is a normal part of life and can be a healthy process. There are many effective techniques that you can use in order to control the process so that you can achieve a positive outcome. During a conversation, both parties continuously ‘transmit’ and ‘receive’ information. Whilst you cannot control what you ‘receive’, you can control what you ‘transmit’.

Step 7 – Avoid justification
The best way to say no is to politely say NO and then to SHUT UP. Keep your reason short and concise. Do not embroil yourself in a process of justification. Whilst the other party will most likely try and convince you otherwise, stand your ground and avoid a debate. Don’t be drawn back into an old pattern of self-defensive rhetoric that will get you nowhere in the end. Fewer words in these cases will virtually always prove more effective.

NeuroVance has been developed to optimise brain function and combat stress.
Find out how serious your stress levels are with our FREE stress test here:

Down in the dumps?

Practical ways to boost your mood

Key points:

  • Just like a computer, our brains contain biological equivalents of ‘hard’ and ‘software’
  • These can be ‘upgraded’ to achieve a more fulfilling life

Dr Fredric Loomis, a busy gynaecologist has an inspiring story that begins on a day that he receives a letter from an anonymous patient. Although she was admitted to one of his wards, she had been under the care of another doctor. She starts by telling him that he would not remember her. She had lost her baby at birth and he, having heard of her loss, sat beside her for few moments holding her hand. He had not spoken much but his voice and eyes were kind and his mere presence comforted her. She never saw him again in spite of the fact that the nurses had told her that he practically lived at the hospital. This is an extract from her letter:

“This afternoon I was a guest in a beautiful Chinese home here in Peking. The garden was enclosed by a high wall, and on one side, surrounded by twining red and white flowers, was a brass plate about two feet long. I asked someone to translate the Chinese characters for me. They said: ENJOY YOURSELF. IT IS LATER THAN YOU THINK.

I began thinking about it for myself. I had not wanted another baby because I was grieving for the one, I lost, but decided at that moment that I could not wait any longer. Perhaps it may also be later for me than I thought. Then, because I was thinking of my baby, I thought of you and the tired lines in your face, and the moment of sympathy you had given me when I so needed it. I don’t know how old you are but I am quite sure that you are old enough to be my father. I know that those few moments we spent meant little or nothing to you of course, but they meant a great deal to a woman who was desperately unhappy.

I may be presumptuous to think that in turn I can do something for you too, but perhaps for you it is later than you think. Please forgive me, but when your work is over on the day you get my letter, please sit down quietly, all by yourself, and think about it. Marguerite.”

The story continues with Dr Loomis immediately taking a three-month sabbatical and going to South America with an old friend. For him it was the stimulus that he needed to prompt him into rearranging the priorities of his life. For many, however, the interest lies with the wonderful mind of Marguerite. Not only did she use the few words from an inscription to change her mood from grief to hope, it also presented her with the opportunity to show compassion to another being that merely looked tired.

Marguerite’s ability to view a crisis in the light of an opportunity is a talent and strength that few naturally possess. It is easy to become so self-absorbed and obsessed with your own misery that all other opportunities and duties, including the well-being of others, become irrelevant. The truth is that it is never easy to maintain the level of self-control to always keep a positive attitude. It is even more difficult to focus on your personal goals when hope starts fading and the playing field is always changing.

The benefits of mental wellness

Mood plays a dominant role in our lives; a good mood makes us think and feel better. It makes us more optimistic and enthusiastic. This also improves the quality of our interpersonal relationships and strengthens our level of commitment, resolve and focus on life. The numerous negative emotions that are caused by stress, frustration, rejection and disappointment have the opposite effect, tending to derail us and make us become withdrawn and introspective. In the process we give up and abandon our goals.

Re-active people wait for opportunities to come along so that they can respond. Pro-active people, on the other hand, actively strive to create their own opportunities. The difference between taking the initiative and responsibility for making events happen, rather than wait for someone else to take the initiative, is like chalk and cheese, especially when measured over a lifespan.

The body’s central processing unit

Not unlike a computer, the brain is made up of billions of neurons or nerve cells that are interlinked with each other via an intricate web of microscopic fibres called dendrites. These fibres stretch great distances to reach other neurons in distant parts of the brain, thereby creating a three dimensional network that spans across the entire brain. All neurons communicate with each other via chemical reactions which generate minuscule electrical currents that run along these fibres. At the tips of all dendrites where they intersect or meet other dendrites, a specialised end-organ called a synapse is found. This is where the brain keeps its store of neurotransmitters, those famous messenger chemicals that drugs like Prozac target.

The better known neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin, to name a few, and they all share the same function, namely fulfilling the role of chemical messengers. Just like a computer, every thought, memory and emotion have an underlying chemical as well as electronic pathway. Whilst neurons and neurotransmitters form the hardware of your brain, emotion is the software.

Neural operating systems

The word “emotion” comes from the Latin word, “motere”, plus the prefix “e”, implying “to move away”. Emotions are nothing more than primordial impulses to act. Emotions are automatic, engrained into our subconscious minds like the basic operating system which runs your PC. This ability allows us to act without needing to waste time bothering about thinking. The benefit of this built-in software program is that it enables us to jump out of the way of a speeding car without a second thought, for example, or dive into a pool to save a drowning child.

Emotions are crucial survival instincts that we have inherited from our forefathers. With anger, for example, we release adrenalin into our systems. This increases our heart rate, thereby bringing more oxygen and energy to our bodies. We focus more clearly, our hands clench tightly, ready to grasp a weapon and defend ourselves. With fear, our minds stop thinking and blood rushes to our leg muscles in preparation for running away. Happiness has an opposite effect. With happiness the brain inhibits most negative feelings such as worrying, fear and pessimism. We become more positively energised in the form of increased enthusiasm, thereby creating the drive and ambition to strive for greater goals and engage in interpersonal relationship.

The sensory or neocortex of the brain is like the processor of a computer with a high-speed, analytical function. When we are calm and controlled, it will suggest an appropriate response to an event that requires emotional interpretation, for example: “If I smile at him, he will smile back at me”, or “If I say something nasty to him, he’ll become angry with me.” The amygdala is our primitive emotional brain and its function is to give the “fight” or “flight” command when we are in danger. For us, the same happens when we are stressed, especially when we are threatened. Because our mental software, however, has been programmed to fight for survival, the sensory cortex’s analytic function is immediately bypassed by the amygdala when we feel confronted. This is when things sometimes can go very wrong.

Positive versus negative emotions

The amygdala continuously scans its archives for stored information before it responds. The information that it contains have been gathered over many years from our own past experiences, as well as automatically inherited from the experiences that our forefathers had stored in their minds, in other words, the memories that are genetically-imprinted in our minds. Of these, the most powerful memories always come from two main sources, namely either pleasant or unpleasant childhood experiences. The earlier in life an unpleasant memory becomes imprinted, the greater the chance that it will become part of our permanent memory.

Unfortunately, the amygdala or emotional brain, is limited to either fight or flight responses that are often totally inappropriate to the actual situation. Because the logic of the neocortex can be overruled by the amygdala, we regularly lose intellectual control over our emotions. After an over reactionary amygdala response, like some temper tantrum, for example, the neocortex’s logical function returns and then usually tends to rationalise or defend the emotional response or behaviour. Instead of apologising, we often start blaming others. “If you had not provoked me like that, I would not have lost my temper and caused such a scene. It is therefore your fault that I behaved so badly.” For the other person, of course, this excuse will most likely not hold water.

Mental software

IQ refers to intelligence. IQ has been taught and tested at schools for many centuries. EQ, on the other hand, refers to ‘emotional intelligence’, a term that two researchers, Salovey and Mayer, coined only as recently as 1990. The world became aware of the significance of EQ in the early 1990s when research by clinicians and authorities on human development revealed the fundamental link between success and EQ. Continual studies, supported by conclusive evidence from business, sporting and individual sources, confirm that success in life has more to do with emotional intelligence (EQ) than intellect (IQ).

Research continuously reinforces the connection between wellbeing and EQ. People who are emotionally more intelligent are more effective at their jobs, achieve more promotions, take better care of their health and have more fulfilling family and personal lives. More often, they get what they want from life. If we become less distracted by our negative emotions and more able to rely on or make use of our positive emotions, we have a better chance to strive for and achieve our goals in life. The first step towards this goal is to become more emotionally aware.

Installing neurological upgrades

Scientists have been battling for years with the concept of what makes and keeps your mind working optimally. Psychologists are historically focused on ways to elevate a patient’s negative frame of mind or mental state from minus five, for example, to zero, with zero considered the benchmark of ‘normal’. A modern scientific ambition, however, is to elevate one’s state of mind from zero to plus five. This approach includes the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) rather than IQ, as well as the use of pharmaceutical agents that improves mental functioning and mood.

Seeing that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the best way to achieve this is with a combination of different strategies. The first step towards optimising your brain function is to follow a proper, nutritional diet. Fresh fruit and vegetables must be consumed on a daily basis to get the right micronutrients, minerals and vitamins, and the intake of toxic substances like alcohol and tobacco smoke must be minimised. Exercise is a wonderful and natural way of relieving the symptoms of stress. The next step is to use a neurological supplement.

Supplements that assist with neurological function

NeuroVance contains a unique blend of plant derived (phytochemical) ingredients, recognised for their ability to help regulate mood and assist with concentration. Its multi-modal pharmaceutical action is achieved through its ability to enhance separate but interconnected components of brain function, thereby giving your brain a physiological advantage during busy and stressful periods. NeuroVance will benefit anyone suffering from mental exhaustion, stress or emotional hardship, and is the ideal supplement to take during times of greater work pressure, exams, conflict, bereavement or loss.

Seeking support

Getting help is a good place to start lifting the fog of despair. It is often difficult to maintain an accurate perspective of your situation on your own, or sustain the effort required to lift your mood. Isolation and loneliness often make it worse. On the other hand, the nature of the condition also makes it more difficult for you to seek help. This is where you will need to rely on self-discipline. There are so many people who are trained in this field; you just need to find them. Therapy helps people explore the roots of depression or anxiety. These may, for example, stem from unresolved conflict with family members or relations because of long-standing defensive patterns developed from the common tendency to avoid, rather than face conflict situations. Cumulatively, these unresolved issues may lead to unsatisfied needs and an emotion of despair and hopelessness. Psychotherapy tends to work best with those who are curious to learn more about themselves and want to develop insight into the unconscious factors that contribute towards their problems. Please consult your doctor to discuss your options.

NeuroVance has been developed to optimise brain function and combat stress.
Read More


Practical steps to gain control

Key points:

  • South Africa ranked 7th highest in the world for the prevalence of mood disorders
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) grimly predicts that mental ill-health will be the leading cause of death by 2020

Stress is a common risk factor for a wide variety of chronic disorders, more than what is often realised. According to findings from the first South African Stress and Health Study, South Africa is ranked 7th highest in the world for the prevalence of mood disorders and it is estimated that 10% of us will suffer from a mood disorder at some point in our lives1.

These findings are in line with global trends which suggest incidents of stress and mood-related disorders are increasing dramatically. For example, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that 32% of Americans are living with extremely high stress levels 2. Similarly, a report adopted by the European Parliament suggests that over 27 percent of European adults are affected by mental ill health and stress related conditions every year 3. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 450 million people are affected by mental or neurological disorders globally and grimly predicted that mental ill-health will be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2020.

Stress – more pro’s than cons. A certain amount of stress plays an important role in leading a productive and fulfilling life. While a small dose of stress can actually help motivate us to perform at our best, there are also many times when stress leaves us feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope and in need of additional support.

Overwhelmingly stressful circumstances include moving house, divorce, death, retrenchment or illness. These are all recognised events and it makes perfect sense to feel somewhat stressed under these conditions. However, on a daily basis, numerous minor events are encountered by life in general. Largely unrecognised, these also play a cumulative role in emotional depletion and the progressive escalation of stress levels.
To preserve your mental health and prevent this from escalating out of control, it is important to proactively manage your stress levels on a daily basis. The best way to do this is to use a combination of techniques.

Seven practical steps to help manage stress

Step 1: Back to the basics Follow a nutritious, balanced diet to optimise your mental and physical health. Avoid poisoning your brain and body with excessive amounts of alcohol, junk food or recreational drugs. Start exercising – numerous studies have demonstrated that regular exercise can be as effective as some of the world’s best-known anti-anxiety drugs. This is because the body naturally releases chemicals called ‘endorphins’ during exercise. These opiate-related chemicals give you a natural ‘high’ and can play a significant role in mood enhancement and relaxation.

Step 2: Take a brain supplement
NeuroVance contains a blend of plant derived (phytochemical) ingredients recognised for their ability to help regulate mood and assist with concentration. Its multi-modal pharmaceutical action is achieved through its ability to enhance separate but interconnected components of brain function, thereby giving your brain a physiological advantage during busy and stressful periods. NeuroVance will benefit anyone suffering from mental exhaustion, stress or emotional hardship, and is the ideal supplement to take during times of greater work pressure, exams, conflict, bereavement or loss.

Step 3: Manage your mind
Bouts of acute stress tend to overload our minds to such a degree that we simply can’t think straight – as a result, logic and reason fly out the back door. Stress also activates a cycle of negative and repetitive thoughts to mill around in our heads like a stuck record. This process just consumes our mental reserves without any real benefit, especially when we can’t sleep at night. When this happens, distract your mind by giving it something totally different to think about in order to break the destructive and monotonous cycle. Remember the saying: “Troubles are a lot like children – they grow bigger if you nurse them.”

Once you have calmed down, focus on dealing with your problems positively and logically. Control all strong emotions and try to remain constructive. Be cautious of exaggeration and consider all your options in an objective manner. Fear and worry tend to turn us into pessimists and cynics, which can make us lose hope and later justify our failure. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into this self-destructive cycle.

Step 4: Manage your mouth
Stress tends to make us short tempered, irritable and bad-tempered. Nobody deserves this from anyone. Be aware and considerate to others, especially those close to you. Being temperamental and moody may increase your stress levels by straining your relationships.

Step 5: Implement better boundaries
Effective boundaries will significantly reduce your stress levels by protecting you from the constant demands and irritating behaviour of others. While the actual process of defining healthy boundaries is fairly simple, most people find this concept quite daunting. Actually, all you need to do is say ‘no’ sometimes, something you may not be naturally good at doing. Saying ‘no’ is easier to do if you are calm, polite and respectful. Saying ‘no’ when you are emotionally charged and short tempered can cause hostility and anger, which may lead to an argument. Being firm and consistent earns you respect from other people – over-reacting, being melodramatic and inconsistent does not.

Step 6: Manage conflict more effectively
Many people find it easy to engage in conflict. This is because they are naturally confrontational and not intimidated by others. Although they are often able to achieve their personal objectives, unfortunately this may come at a cost since they may also leave a path of destruction behind them regarding interpersonal relationships, especially with individuals who tend to avoid conflict. At the other extreme, many people go to great lengths to avoid conflict. They achieve this by suppressing their opinions, swallowing their pride and towing the line. Whilst this strategy may work over the short term, it’s very difficult to maintain within in a close working or personal relationship. This approach not only leads to more stress, but also growing feelings of bitterness, anger and resentment. There are many well-established techniques that will help you confront and manage conflict in order to achieve a positive outcome.

Step 7: Ask for help
We live in a web of relationships with family, co-workers, friends and healthcare providers. People who draw strength from these relationships are able to tackle challenges that they would not be able to master on their own. Problems never seem so overwhelming when you share them with others. Enlisting support is quite simple – all you have to do is to ask. Some people act as advisors and provide you with information, either in your personal or professional life. Others support or nurture you when times are tough. Contacts provide you with leads and are able to connect you with other people who will be able to assist you with your problem. It is unrealistic to expect this kind of support system from a single person. Think about what you need before you ask for advice, and when ready, ask the right person.

Find out how serious your stress levels are with our FREE stress test here:

Read other related articles

Read more