What exactly is stress?

Most people will experience stress at some point in their life. Deadlines needing to be met or high demands made by family and friends or simply not enough hours in one day. These stressors are regarded as Healthy Stress because certain amount of stimulation to the nervous system is needed to function well. A healthy stress response is an inbuilt reactive sensory tool designed as an instinctual programming in response to threatening or perceived dangers. This response is designed purely as a survival method which is primarily to ensure the survival of humanity. Commonly referred to as the fight or flight response, which was essential for survival for our ancestors, as they were faced with dangers of wild animals whilst hunting and gathering food and extreme weather conditions due to lack of proper shelters. Once the perceived danger is managed the brain tells the chemicals to relax and we begin to feel calm again.

When we experience traumatic situations emotionally and physically the chemicals can become stuck on overdrive and that’s when complications occur.

The three main factors are:

Dopamine which functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain and is a chemical released by neurons that sends signals to other nerve cells. Its role is to stimulate the pleasure sector of the brain and regulates pain. When there is an imbalance this will affect the ability in perceiving physical and psychological pleasure and an increase in pain levels would eventuate.

Epinephrine (adrenaline) is secreted by the adrenal medulla and helps regulate our physiological responses to stress. When over stimulated it increases our heart rate and blood sugar level and breaks down lipids in our fat cells preparing us for a fight or flight response hence the surge of energy.

Norepinephrine (non-adrenaline) is secreted from the adrenal medulla above the kidneys promoting energy and when overstimulated will have an adverse effect resulting in apathy, lethargy, and extreme exhaustion.

Chronic stress can cause an imbalance in these chemicals which can cause high blood pressure, an increase in nervous tension in the muscles and nervous reflex responses and also the gastrointestinal systems causing ailments such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

An imbalance in cortisol due to chronic stress reduces the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells) circulating in the blood which results in a lower immune system and more likely to be susceptible to infectious conditions such as Influenza. It also can produce a higher risk of deposits of atherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessel resulting to greater risks of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Cortisol also increases blood glucose levels resulting in diabetes mellitus type I and II and excessive cortisol can attack the endocrine system which decreases bone density.

High Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Disease, and ulcers to name a few are one of the few leading Diseases derived from Chronic Stress. The World Health Organization states that Cardiovascular Diseases is “the number one cause of death globally….” According to Researchers from Harvard University, stress is now recognised as one of the high factors.

Stress is subjective in nature, meaning that no two people will suffer the exact symptomatic response which makes it difficult to recognise. Some even consider their stressors as their way of life. Until it becomes too late.

Those suffering chronic stress turn to different options to alleviate the effects that stress can cause.

Maladaptive behaviours associated with chronic stress are typically the use of chemical sedatives such as prescription medication, alcohol, or even worst illicit drugs. It can cause changes in sleeping patterns and dietary intake. Personal hygiene is also neglected and avoidance of certain situations or withdrawals from relationships. Extreme behaviours such as risk taking especially in financial mismanagement such as gambling to release dopamine which dominates the pleasure zone. Chasing the dopamine high takes us on the merry go round of chronic stress because what goes up must always come down.

Some symptoms related to Emotional Stress are depression, anxiety, panic attacks, P.T.S.D, asthma, allergies, acne, migraine headaches, heart disease, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal problems, ulcers to name a few.

Hydrochloric acid in the stomach is increased by high stress levels causing erosion to the mucus layer creating lesions or peptic ulcers. In fact, stress can amplify any vulnerability within the physical body prone to hereditary dispositions such as DNA and genetical factors and inevitably causes a wide range of disorders prone to susceptibility.

Click on the links below to learn more about alternative options to assist you in eliminating high stress levels today.