Your Beaker, My Beaker: Understanding why they’re different

How to beat depression

Stress capacity: I refer to mine as a beaker. “Not now, the beaker’s overflowing.” or “I need to pour a little out of the ‘ole beaker.” Monitoring stress load and capacity is huge. Understanding why each of our beakers are different is crucial.

When it comes to the difference between beakers, it seems the action takes place in that three-pound organ in our skull.

We all know the type…

Bring it on, I can handle the load. Problems, worries, decisions? I’m the one you come to – 24/7.

Seemingly boundless stress capacity, don’t you think? I mean, their beaker volume must be 100 gallons.

Inaccurate and self-harming assumptions

Well, load carrying potential really can be astonishing. And many stand in awe of such “mighty ones.” So much so that questions to self like these are posed…

How do they do that? Were they always like that? How does it feel to be so strong?

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

I want to be like that. But I can’t be like that. Since I can’t be like that, I must be a loser.

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? Is the assumption we all have beakers of the same capacity?

I suppose if we did, one could justifiably strive for “greatness.” However, truth is, each of 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 the difference between beakers, it seems the action takes place in that three-pound organ in our skull.

In a study entitled “Whole-Brain Mapping of Neuronal Activity in the Learned Helplessness Model of Depression,” published in Frontiers in Neural Circuits, a research team mapped brain activity in mice when they were placed under stress. Some mice showed helpless behavior, while others displayed resilience.

It makes sense that their brain activity was vastly different.

The team noted that stress-generated helpless behavior is readily recognizable in the brain. 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 ones.

How to beat depression

Norepinephrine synthesis, a player in the physiological responses to stress and panic, involved with feelings of helplessness

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 and miracles of the brain never ends. And it comforts me when I learn there’s a biological explanation for the challenges I manage.

By the way, I’m not implying that anyone is “helpless.” How ‘bout we go with “less resilient?” Not a thing wrong with that.

Let’s wrap it up

So, when it comes to stress capacity, given what we just reviewed, and good common sense, can you buy into “Your beaker, my beaker – they’re different?” I mean, it’s really a crucial bit of acceptance.

Sure, there are millions of “I’m the one you come to‘s” out there with 100 gallon beakers. However, you and I may not be one of them. And coming to grips with that brings a lot of peace.

After all, how can we self-ridicule and feel small when we’ve accepted the size – capacity – of our beaker?

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:

Would you like some coping tips for when the beaker gets full? Look no further.

Tons of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder info and inspiration articles await. Hit the titles.

  • npeden April 12, 2016, 5:10 pm

    well all i have to say is, did you know that there is a google scholar alert for very complex papers on “the high sensitivity of mthfr 677”.?..i am mthfr 677 and damn do i have to watch my beaker. and damn do i get paralyzed with overwhelm….i actually amaze myself with what i get done but relaxing is soooo essential. gotta empty my beakers somehow.

  • Chipur April 13, 2016, 6:06 pm

    Thank you, Nancy. This is a safe link, readers. Article title is Dietary and Botanical Anxiolytics…

  • Kyczy April 18, 2016, 3:04 pm

    Your writing is so friendly and personal- it helps when dealing with issues. This one comes up for me FREQUENTLY. I am learning to attend to it before it becomes an emergency. Thank you!

    • Chipur April 18, 2016, 4:09 pm

      Hey, Kyczy – glad you stopped-on-by. Good to have you back. Appreciate your kind words, and glad the article hit home. Please come back when you can.

      Readers, please check-out Kyczy’s yoga/recovery work. Very much well worth your time


  • Sue Ledet April 27, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Can your beaker change sizes with different kinds of stress? Like some kinds of stress make your beaker overflow while another kind of stress hardly causes a ripple? I guess I’m asking if stress is all the same?

    • Chipur April 27, 2016, 7:00 pm

      Hey, Sue. Welcome back – good hearing from you again. Great questions, actually. Let’s chat a little…

      I really believe we all have pretty much “set” beaker sizes, by virtue of genetics, formative years stressors, etc. Oh, I suppose we can do “beaker push-ups” and facilitate a bit of expansion; however, I’m sticking with the “set” beaker size notion.

      Now, I believe each stressor has its own, say, impact value – which goes toward maxing-out ones’ beaker volume. So let’s say my beaker volume is 20 units. Well, forgetting to take my shirts to the cleaners may be 1 unit. But getting into a fender-bender may be 15. So, yes, stressors aren’t all the same. But it’s the cumulative effect that matters. Just between those two stressors I’m 16 units into my 20 unit beaker. And that means I need to know I have 4 units to go. So I need to be careful what I take on, as well as do my best to process what I have – to take that 16 units down to, say, 10. Does that make sense?

      Always good having you stop-by, Sue. And I appreciate that – and you…