Your Beaker, My Beaker: Why It’s Crucial to Understand They’re Different

How to beat depression

Heck if I know how it evolved, but I refer to my overall stress load in beaker terms. So it’s “The beaker’s overflowing at the moment.” Or “I need to pour a little out of the ‘ole beaker.” Doesn’t much matter how we express it. But monitoring our stress load is huge. And understanding our beakers are different is crucial…

The team noted that stress-generated helpless behavior is readily recognizable in the brain, and common to animals displaying helplessness.

Come on, we all know the type…

“Bring it on, baby! I can handle the load. Problems? Worries? Decisions? Doesn’t matter. I’m the go-to great one – 24/7.”

(Well, alrighty, then.)

Oh my word, seemingly boundless stress capacity. Why, their beaker volume must be 100 gallons. Right?

Fact is, the load carrying potential really can be quite astonishing. And many stand in awe of such “great ones.” So much so that questions like these arise…

“How do they do that?”

“Were they always that way?”

“What course did they take?”

“What drugs are they using?”

But all too often – sadly – the verbiage transitions to…

“I want to be like that.”

“I can’t be like that.”

“Since I can’t be like that, I must be a lesser person – a wimp.”

Now, it’s tough enough for anyone to absorb such supposed realities. But it can be absolutely devastating for someone enduring a mood or anxiety disorder.

So, why would we do that to ourselves? (Rhetorical, of course.)

Is the assumption we all have beakers of the same size – capacity? Well, I suppose if we did, one could justifiably strive for “greatness.”

However, truth is, our beakers are very different. So it’s incredibly unfair to self-ridicule and feel small.

The Science of Your Beaker, My Beaker

When it comes to differentiating beakers, it seems – once again – the party’s rockin’ in that three-pound mass of tissue and liquid in our skulls.

In a study addressing learned helplessness in depression, published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits (worth checking-out), a team of scientists mapped brain activity in mice when they were placed under stress. Some mice showed helpless behavior, while others displayed resilience.

Their brain activity was vastly different.

The team noted that stress-generated helpless behavior is readily recognizable in the brain, and common to animals displaying helplessness. As they put it, “We uncovered abnormally stereotypic brain activity in helpless animals.” In fact, helpless mice had more common brain activity than the resilient mice.

How to beat depression

And there’s more. The mice that showed helpless behavior had significantly lower levels of overall brain activity. This included the prefrontal cortex, associated with thought and action organization. It’s also been associated with the mood and anxiety disorders.

But there was an area of the brain that lit-up the most in the helpless mice – the locus coeruleus. Interestingly enough, it’s involved in physiological responses to stress and panic. And it’s prime-turf for the synthesis of norepinephrine (noradrenaline), the primary neurotransmitter used by the sympathetic nervous system – home of our fight/flight response.

Don’t know about you, but my fascination with the mysteries/miracles of the brain never ends. And it comforts me when I come to understand there’s a biological explanation for the challenges I hope to manage.

Let’s Wrap It Up

So when it comes to stress capacity, given what we just reviewed (and good common sense), are you buying “Your beaker, my beaker – they’re different?” I mean, it’s really a crucial bit of acceptance. Don’t you think?

Sure, there are millions of “go-to great ones” out there with 100 gallon beakers; however, you and I may not be one of them. And coming to grips with that brings so much peace.

After all, how could we self-ridicule and feel small when we intimately know the size – capacity – of our beakers?

Isn’t it better to accept, adapt – and thrive?

Hey, if you’d like to read the study I’ve utilized, here ya’ go: Whole-Brain Mapping of Neuronal Activity in the Learned Helplessness Model of Depression

locus coeruleus image:

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