In life, there is practically a myriad of ways you can get stressed: deadlines in work or school, worrying about the kids, a fear of losing a job or scholarship, among others. All of these can produce an avalanche stress hormone, in turn, produce timely physiological changes. When in stress, the heart pounds and breathing goes quicker.
“There are so many ways stress creeps into our lives, yet if we take control of our time and make proactive and healthy decisions, we can stop these negative cycles and truly take care of our mental health.” That is according to Sonja Seglin, LCPC. This sequence of reactions called the “fight or flight” reaction, which is an evolved survival mechanism. This mechanism initially developed as a way to fend off the dangers primitive man faced, growing over time to sense threats and determine whether one can fight it or not. An unfortunate side-effect of this evolution, however, is that this also works on things such as a traffic jam, workplace pressure, household difficulties.
Throughout time, research has learned only not about the why and how of stress, but at the same time, gain information to effects, one can face physically and mentally. Research indicates chronic stress leads to spiking blood pressures, promoting the artery-clogging formation deposits, which lead to depression, anxiety, and addiction. Other effects of stress include obesity, by direct methods (eating more) or indirect methods (decreased exercise and sleep).
Ringing The Bell
It all begins with the human brain when the stress response starts. When someone faces imminent danger, such as a car crash or a weapon poised at you, your senses send the details to the amygdala, the part of the human brain responsible for emotional processing. It interprets sound and sight, and upon the perception of danger, it sends a distress sign to the hypothalamus part. “Neuroscientists have found that brain structure is altered by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributing factor to anxiety and depression. Feelings of calm arise from time away from work and relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways that it couldn’t if it were still under pressure.” Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP also adds.
When in a stressful event, the amygdala, which serves as a brain’s headquarters. It’s like a command center, because it communicates with all of the nerves throughout the body, to ready for either fight or flight. After the amygdala has already sent the distress signal to the hypothalamus, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, which is one part of the autonomic nervous system. It is the “go” part, while its companion, the parasympathetic nervous system, is the “stop” part.
How To Counter Chronic Stress
“When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues for a long time and we have difficulty paying attention to other things.” Dr. David Ballard, PsyD said. Most people are unable to put a stop on stress. Chronic low-level stress eats away at your energy, much like a motor left idle on high for too long. Persisting epinephrine surges may damage blood vessels and arteries, which leads to the spiking of blood pressure, and a raised risk of a heart attack.
Among the techniques found best to counter chronic stress are:
Relaxation response. This has a variety of methods to choose from, from simple deep breathing to yoga, and many other forms of relaxation. Most studies conducted were on hypertension and other heart disease patients. It did show that later on in the test, at least one medication was dropped.
Exercise can be another way to stifle the buildup of stress in several ways. It can be just a mere brisk walk after being stressed out does wonders if stressed, relieving muscle tension, as well as eased breathing. Other recommended movement activities are yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.
The pure company of friends also alleviates too chronic stress. Whether be it friends or family, or just acquaintances from an interest club, they all form life-enhancing nets and can lead to longevity. There is no clear evidence, but it is said that people who have close support with family and friends live longer, due to the support network they have. After all, as they say, no man is an island.