• Dr. Aanchal Bhatia

Stress and me

Let’s talk about this one thing that is inevitable to all of us. We all know what stress is. What causes us stress, what’s triggering our old stressors and hopefully we all have found an efficient way to cope with it.

“Stress can be defined as a brain–body reaction towards stimuli arising from the environment or from internal cues that are interpreted as a disruption of homeostasis" (Mora et al., 2011)

You've probably heard of stress not being good for you. Now, how does stress really affect our actual body?

Story time:

You’re out camping by a beautiful lake, looking at the stars and enjoying the breeze—you hear something behind you. You turn around and see a big bear. What do you do? Do you find a way to fight it or is your initial response to run and hide from the bear?

We have our Parasympathetic nervous system. The system that is there to make you run away as fast as you can and/or hide from the bear. Then we have our good ol’ nervous system for fighting the bear. This is possible because of our Sympathetic nervous system.

When we feel stress, our body does a few things; it releases the hormone cortisol and neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and norepinephrine all of which drive the emotional side of our brain. If we’re more emotional/worried about the stress we’re already feeling, it triggers our emotional brain and cause even more stress and anxiety.

According to a study correlating chronic stress at work and metabolic syndrome, it was known that chronic work stress was an important risk factor for diseases such as metabolic syndrome. “Heightened stress reactivity and impaired recovery after stress, assessed by blood pressure and inflammatory markers, predict the five year progression of the metabolic syndrome” ( Tarani et al., 2006)

More stress and anxiety causes our active side of the brain to become sluggish—resulting in lack of motivation, decreased immune system and affecting our digestive system. It can make us feel constipated or decrease our ability to digest food. According to Psychoneuroendochrinology journal, when tested the relationship of high cortisol with eating, they noted “In terms of taste preferences, high reactors ate significantly more sweet food across days. Increases in negative mood in response to the stressors were also significantly related to greater food consumption”. (Epel, Elissa et al.)

Now, stress is a very important factor in your body. You need the initial stress in order to understand the situation you’re in, evaluate the consequences and take action. What we’re talking about is prolonged stress.

The kind that Princess Elsa sings about in “Let it go”.

Back from Disney, so thanks to the prolonged stress, we’re not only more stressed, we’re feeling down, with weakened immune system, eating too much dessert or not eating at all and our body isn’t working right in general. GREAT.

What’s the key to an overall functioning body?

It's simple: Be happy. Be healthy.

The key to a well function body is keeping the stress under check and watch your body do amazing things when it’s feeling great. Just like prolonged amount of stress is what causes our body to feel the damage, practicing positive thinking, eating healthy, exercising regularly and of course, getting adjusted (but we will talk about that later); in short, persistent repetition of positive actions is really what it takes for our body to feel great overall.

Epel, Elissa et al. Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior Epel, Elissa et al. Psychoneuroendocrinology , Volume 26 , Issue 1 , 37 – 49

Mora, Francisco & Segovia, Gregorio & Del Arco, Alberto & de Blas, Marta & Garrido, Pedro. (2012). Stress, neurotransmitters, corticosterone and body-brain integration. Brain research. 1476. 71-85. 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.12.049.

Chandola Tarani, Brunner Eric, Marmot Michael. Chronic stress at work and the metabolic syndrome: prospective study BMJ 2006; 332 :521

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