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The Impact of Stress to our Bodies

Posted by admin 9:38 pm, 4 December 2014

Our response to stress is quite complex. It all starts when our brain notices or most times even imagines a threat. It could be your flight response like seeing something dangerous or even having feedback by your boss. At this point the brain releases chemicals that change the mind and body into an alert mode

During stress the brain shuts down important regions that are needed for long-term planning and increases the chemicals in regions that help us react quickly and without much thinking. The body sends its resources to the systems that will help you flee from danger or fight to defend yourself (that’s why the heart is pounding!). It takes those resources away from things like digestion, reproduction and healing. That’s a big part of why chronic stress is so harmful for health and can increase risk of heart disease, infections and digestive or metabolic disorders.

When this is happening stress hormones are released throughout the body and shaping our behaviour. The hormone oxytocin is a key part of the stress response for women. It creates the desire to be close to others, to seek social support and hugs and protection. Among men, there may be an increase in vasopressin and testosterone. These two hormones increase the competitive drive and desire to defend yourself and those you care about. And among just about everyone, the stress hormone cortisol makes us crave whatever we are addicted to, from cigarettes to cookies to checking our phones or email.

Everyone seems to have different stress thresholds so the big question is what causes stress. Well, genetics is key in which some children are born with what’s called a sensitive temperament. This makes babies and children easily stressed out by things like new environments, new people and being separated from their primary caregivers. This temperament can lead to an increased risk for anxiety, depression, addiction and other stress-related problems. However, this inherited sensitivity doesn’t mean a lifetime of being overwhelmed by stress. Research suggests that sensitive children who are well-nurtured by their primary caregivers and shape a secure attachment style go on to become incredibly resilient.

Life experiences have an impact on our resilience. Traumatic experiences, especially ones that occurred over a long period of time, like growing up in an abusive home or serving in war, can change the way the brain and body respond to stress. Your brain and body can learn that the world is a dangerous place and become more reactive to any sign of threat. At the same time, there are many life experiences that make us more resilient to stress.

Tune in a fortnight for methods to alleviate stress…