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Lesson 6 | Lesson Plan

Depression and Stress

"Teachers: Nikki neuron reminds you to check the standards tables in the front of the toolkit to see which ones apply for this lesson and your subject area."


Student Objectives

■ Identify the basic elements of stress

■ Explore how to identify stressors in one’s life.

■ Describe the response of the brain and body to danger or other stresses.

■ Analyze basic neurobiology of the fight-flight (stress) response.

■ Identify and rate sources of stress in the lives of the students.

■ Describe the physical and psychological consequences of chronic stress.

■ Define components of the HPA axis and describe how its activity during chronic stress can lead to depression.

■ Practice stress management techniques.

Suggestions for Presentation of Material

Ask leading questions to engage class in discussion:
What is stress? What is the fight-flight response? What happens to our bodies during the fight-fl ight response? How do people cope with stress? What problems can develop when stress isn’t handled effectively or when there is too much stress? What do you consider stressful? What situations or events would you consider to be low-stress or stress-free? What do you think happens in the brain when we are under stress? Are stress and depression related?

Key Points of Discussion

■ Stress can be defined as internal or external events that are experienced by an organism which require the organism to change or adapt in some way.

■ Dr. Selye’s basic definition of stress is anything that moves a person away from physical homeostasis, and the stress response is the body’s attempt to move back to homeostasis.

■ The fight-flight response is synonymous with the stress response and is a critical physiological response to stress. It has primitive origins in our development as a species and its key purpose is as a survival mechanism. However, it has proved to be less helpful, even harmful and inappropriate at times, in our current, civilized society.

■ During the fight-flight response, the brain responds as if basic survival is at stake (even if it is not). This causes the more emotional and primitive parts of the brain to “take charge,” making it harder for the more advanced, “thoughtful” brain centers to be “heard” above the demands of the fight-flight response.

■ Stress can be good or bad – adaptive or maladaptive – for an organism. Stressors can be good or bad experiences; an accumulation of stressors can affect an organism negatively, both in psychological and physical ways.

■ Stress directly affects performance, for example, on an exam or in sports. The relationship between stress and performance can be represented graphically as an inverted U-shaped curve. Performance is best at moderate levels of stress and poor at either high or low levels of stress or physiological arousal.

■ The basics of the neurobiology of stress include brain areas and circuits involved in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Chronic stress and the malfunctioning HPA axis are linked to depression.

■ Effective management of stress can involve several approaches. One can try to avoid the stress, or if this is not feasible or desirable, one can use stress reduction techniques to help one accommodate to the stressors. These include diaphragmatic breathing, muscle relaxation training, meditation, visual imagery, exercise, and positive self-talk. An overall healthy and moderate lifestyle also helps to reduce stress.

Vocabulary
Stress
Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)
Stressor
Distress
Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)
Homeostasis
Fight-flight response
Cortisol
Adrenaline (the neurotransmitter epinephrine)
Diaphragm
Diaphragmatic breathing
Hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis
Guided imagery
Yerkes response curve

Sponsored by the UAMS College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry’s Partners in Behavioral Health Sciences program which is made possible by support from a Science Education Partnership Award (R25 RR15976) from the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.