“Its not my hormones its my amygdala!”

Tired, moody, angry, impulsive, hungry, off-balance, gangly, awkward, curious…

All make up the tell tale signs of adolescence; your teenage years.

How often are your mood swings, rages and impulsive behaviour put down to simply ‘hormones’ without any real proper explanation? Weekly? Daily? Hourly?!

Your teenage years are pretty much the most confusing and bewildering times of your life and to simply be told ‘Oh it’s just your hormones’, is quite frankly – misleading and disempowering.

Recent advances in neuroscience have dramatically changed the way we understand adolescent behaviour and learning this new information during my TeenYoga training was mesmerising and truly mind blowing. I just HAD to share it.

You see, while your hormones play a pivotal role in your adolescent behaviour and appearance, they are not entirely to blame for your behaviour and emotional reactions.

Your brain development is.

During adolescence, the brain undergoes a huge process of maturation. I’ve learned that the brain grows from back to front, and the front part of the brain, (the pre-frontal cortex) which is responsible for ‘the moderation of “correct” behaviour in social situations, impulse control, moderating intense emotions, stopping inappropriate behaviour, for seeing possible consequences of behaviour etc; all what I like to call “adult behaviour”, is last to develop and mature – usually around the age of 25.

So until then, until this ‘master of all adult behaviour’ part of your brain develops, you process emotional ‘stuff’ through your amygdala.

My what now?!

Your amygdala – a small part of the brain nestled securely in your mid-brain.

Unfortunately for you, the amygdala is the emotional centre of the brain.

These two crucial pieces of information (the fact that your pre-frontal cortex is still developing and that you’re using the amygdala to process emotional stuff) may explain why you react a little on the crazy and impulsive side when it comes to emotional processing.

It’s not my hormones, it’s all to do with my brain then?

Partly true, while the neuroscience research is groundbreaking in explaining your behaviour, your hormones do have a part to play.

For example, oestrogen needs to be balanced to prevent mood swings, progesterone when imbalanced can cause sluggishness, depression, weepiness and crying, sugar cravings and poor concentration and testosterone can cause aggression.

Hormones are indeed essential for your growth from a child into an adult; oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all essential for your physical development (growth of muscle, bone density, public hair, widening of the hips, decent of the testes, breastfeeding growth) as well as performing crucial roles during conception, fertilisation and pregnancy; so they shouldn’t be looked upon as ‘annoying chemicals which make me act in a weird way and that make me feel so crappy’, but rather essential chemicals which enable your body to function correctly.

The way you treat them is super important.

Your hormones and their glands, aka the testes, the ovaries, adrenal, pituitary, pancreas, thymus, thyroid, hypothalamus and pineal; (known as the endocrine system) are some of the most important and vital parts of your body, and while yes, if unbalanced they can cause significant mood changes and aggression, it is still your brain which controls your behaviour.

You are also developing huge amounts of white matter in the corpus callosum – which connects the left and right parts of the brain – this means that you’re developing ways of thinking creatively, analytically and devising strategies for coping with life’s challenges.

You simply haven’t yet mastered the adult world and how to control your behaviour.

To your parents, teachers or older siblings, your behaviour seems totally irrational – it’s like they have forgotten what it feels like to be a teenager, but trust me, they felt this way too! And to any parents, teachers or older siblings reading this – remember how you felt as a teenager? Remember how tough it was?

Another major part of growing up is learning how to assess risks and consequences. Teenagers are risk takers because they have to be. You’re learning what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t say to who and when and in what manner. Your brain is learning how to be.. it’s that simple.

So how can I ensure my hormones are balanced?

The Endocrine system is made up of glands; each secrete a hormone and they tirelessly work to keep your body in a natural state. However external influences (alcohol, drugs, sugar, diet, stress) can all cause hormonal imbalances, which in turn make the symptoms 100 times worse.

Getting a varied diet full of grains, vegetables and fruits is essential and stimulating the glands with yoga postures can help their regulation. Keeping stress free and getting lots of rest makes sure your body, and more importantly your endocrine system, can work correctly.

Annoyingly true – but being healthy and partaking in activities such as yoga, are the best way to make sure your hormones stay balanced and work correctly. You’re still going to get mood swings, weepy, aggressive and tired; but learning about this gives you the power back.
A yoga class is the perfect way to deepen your understanding of your self. Learning ways to manage and observe emotions and understanding your own body are pivotal parts of a TeenYoga class.

I was lucky enough for this blog to be published by my Teen Yoga Training school – you can find the full blog post including “A Message From Your Brain” HERE

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