Stress originates in the brain when it makes interpretations about our environment. The perceived threat or challenging situation will deliver a rapid signal from the brain’s motor cortex to the muscles, which tense, ready for action.
Wear and Tear of Our Bodies
Allostatic load is the wear and tear our bodies experience as they adapt to the challenges that life brings it – both physical and psychological. The way you live and the way you manage stress contribute to your allostatic load. Not getting enough sleep, overeating, caffeine, alcohol, under-exercising and drug taking can make us more susceptible and less resilient to allostatic load.
Effects of Stress
- Ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders
- Heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation
- Decreased concentration
- Excessive need for control
- Poor eating patterns
- Poor memory function
- Negative thought patterns
- Panic attacks
The Happy Chemicals
Social contact and supportive relationships are essential for wellbeing and calm. Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brain that has a significant effect on the stress response. It heightens compassion, prevents blood vessel constriction and improves heart health. It works in tandem with dopamine and endorphins to produce this effect and has been shown to reduce the release of cortisol. Endorphins are an opiate-like neurotransmitter that decreases pain and increases feelings of wellbeing, and is commonly associated with exercise amongst fitness enthusiasts.
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