[quote style=”boxed”]If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.[/quote]
– Kris Carr
Every human being has experienced stress. If you have never experienced stress in your life, you are probably not a human being. Anything that knocks us out of the homeostatic balance is called stress. Homeostatic balance is the ideal condition of the person when he is normal. This includes his body temperature, heart-rate, glucose, bloodstream flow, etc. Interestingly, animals can regain the homeostatic balance very quickly. But this is not the case with human being since we are cognitively complex species. By cognitively complex, I mean, we can think deeper enabling us to relate incidents to the past and presume the future.
Amygdala is the emotional center in the human brain which is responsible for processing the stress signals. Increase in Amygdala’s activity, just blows the frontal lobe off the brain. The frontal lobe is the most important part of the brain that is responsible for making critical decisions, accelerated thoughts, etc. Now you can imagine the footprint the frontal lobe gets when the Amygdala is excited. The frontal lobe starts working with less efficiency.
Amygdala sends stress signals to the Autonomous Nervous System which in turn activates the Sympathetic Nervous System. The Sympathetic NS is responsible for the Fight/Flight/Freeze response. Yes you heard it right, “Freeze”! Freeze means that the individual can go into a paralyzed state. I know its pretty scary! The Parasympathetic NS, which is also triggered by Autonomous NS helps in restoring our state back to homeostatic balance state.
More and more stress leads to chronic/toxic stress which in turn leads to wear and tear of the brain, body and behavior. 90% of human being experience Chronic Stress. Allostatic load is defined as “the wear and tear on the body” which grows over time when the individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. Interestingly, the Allostatic load can be determined from Saliva by checking the level of cortisol, which is a stress induced hormone.
Chronic Stress can lead to:
1) Damages the cardiovascular system. The Blood pressure gets disrupted causing damages to the lining of the arteries. This produces an inflammatory response that can be related to a number of health risks, which can even cause death. In most cases also resulting in diabetes.
2) Amygdala cause the frontal lobe to be less active and hence the problem solving, decision making capability is reduced. Also causes negativity thoughts about life.
3) Behaviorial imbalance like getting agitated, upset, aggressive and angry. More stress can also lead to anxiety.
Stress is the Root cause to anxiety, depression, trauma and anger. Stress can be coped up by dual continua model by minimizing the amount of distress you experience, while also engaging in efforts to maximize well-being. Resilience can be acquired/learned and is not an inborn talent.
Resilience = Survive + thrive
<<Part 2 (on Resilience): in progress>>