My head is aching,
My legs are shaking.
I can’t sleep,
Studies keep piling up in a heap.
Restlessness and irritability prevail
I’m worried, will I fail?
Lack of sleep just mounts,
Oh! I’m so stressed out !
We are living through stressful times and STRESS has become our constant companion. But do you know what exactly happens inside our body when we’re stressed ?
In today’s video we’re going to talk about –
1) The science of stress in our brain and body
2) Five very effective solutions to beat stress, and
3) Two bonus tips at the end.
There are two kinds of Stress —
- One is Eustress or good stress – this gives us an extra burst of energy and focus, when we’re playing a competitive sport or giving a presentation and (pause)
2) The Second is Distress or bad stress – this is the continuous stress which makes us feel burdened
How stress affects the brain
Activation of HPA Axis
Now, you’ve perhaps been stressed for the past few month
s, thinking about your future or your family’s health . Th
is emotion of stress activates the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal axis (THE HPA Axis). Basically the Hypothalamus via the Pituitary glands activate the Adrenal Glands which are situated atop the kidneys. In response, the adrenal glands release a stress hormone called cortisol.
The journey of cortisol—Havoc!
The body thinks of this as a warning sign as though we are about to get eaten up by a bear.
The cortisol first raises the activity level in the Amygdala—the fear center of the brain. This gives rise to feelings of anger. This is the reason why we tend to lash out when we’re stressed.
If you want to know more about the science of anger, then watch this video and I will share a link in the description box.
Have you Ever found yourself saying ‘I am so stressed I can’t think straight’.
While Amygdala is working overtime, Cortisol travels to its next destination— the Prefrontal cortex, located at the front of our head. Prefrontal cortex is the thinking and planning part of the brain. Excess cortisol sustained for long periods of time causes this region to shrink, thereby blurring our rational thinking.
Now, another thing that happens when we are very worked up is that we can’t seem to remember where we kept our phone or keys, even if it is right in front of us. Let’s see why that happens. The cortisol now reaches the hippocampus, the memory center of our brain. Excess cortisol lowers the production of brain cells in this region. This is why we tend to forget everything we’ve studied if we feel very stressed during an exam. The hippocampus also controls our spatial memory, which helps us navigate around a city, or find some object in the house.
Now, where has the cortisol reached in its journey? To the very cells of the brain. Basically too much stress will slow down your response systems as well. Seen someone looking very numb after they have encountered major stress.
But the worst damage of stress is that over time it can change our cell structure right down to our DNA. It shortens telomeres, the shoelace tips of chromosomes, which measure a cell’s age. The shorter the telomeres become the shorter is their life span.
Now, not all stress is bad. Remember we spoke about Eustress or good stress. An experiment conducted by the University of Wisconsin shows that moderate amounts of cortisol can improve memory. While no stress (0 mg cortisol) and too much stress (equivalent to 40 mg cortisol) will not help remember what you studied or where you kept your phone, just the right amount of stress (equivalent to 20 mg cortisol) will help you remember faster. So be alert, but not burnt out!
How stress affects the body
Now you must be thinking that if all this is going on inside the brain, how am i feeling stress in my body. You’re absolutely right! Stress affects all body systems and let’s see how!
Remember that the body is still thinking of us being attacked by a bear. So, it believes that the muscles need more oxygen to fight or to run. Now an amazing sequence of events takes place – The heart pumps faster, increasing blood pressure, causing hypertension. This huge volume of blood starts going through our lungs to get oxygenated, which means we start panting and getting breathless to inhale more oxygen.
Now imagine our arteries like pipes which suddenly have high speed blood gushing inside them. The pipes could burst! So the body begins to thicken these arteries by accumulating a sticky substance called plaque which in turn attracts cholesterol and fats.
Hmm, extra thick walls means that sometimes the openings of the arteries become too narrow and now the heart has to work doubly hard to push blood through them. And all these blocked arteries could lead to heart attacks.
Rumbling in my stomach —
Did you know that over 60% of patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome have psychiatric disorders and chronic anxiety.
Another thing you might have noticed is people tend to “stress eat” before an important occasion. Since the muscles require quick oxygen, Cortisol increases appetite and signals the body to consume more energy rich foods like carbs. The problem is that there is no real fight or flight, so all these sugars get accumulated as belly fat.
But don’t get all stressed out hearing this! Take a deep breath because I have some tried and tested methods to bust your stress.
But before we get to that one big source of stress tends to come from not being able to plan for our future. We are often confused about where to invest our money so that we get good returns and safety of capital. One favourite investment across generations has been buying gold. Upstox Gold which is one of India’s largest investment platforms with over 3 million customers allows you to buy or sell gold online at live market prices. If you go to a jeweler, they would take anything between 5-8% as making charges, but at Upstox Gold there are zero making charges and you can start from as low as one rupee. Plus we have a special offer for ChetChat users – if you use the link below to open your free current account at Upstox Gold you will get free E gold worth Rupees 51. So, start investing today.
And now for the stressbusters.
Keep calm and meditate on—
Mindful meditation and yoga regulates breathing, reduces heart rate and decreases cortisol levels in our body. Stress causes us to breath faster, so we are forcing our body to slow down.
Do some reps to destress—
Exercise also reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. It stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. So try some home workouts, or go for a walk or jog in the fresh air.
Surrender and acceptance –
This is my secret sauce to remain stress free. One big cause of stress is us trying to control every aspect of our lives. Practice acceptance, surrender and gratitude together and you will experience the calm flow through your veins.
Good vibes only—
You might have heard that confidence is key! Well it’s definitely the key to unlocking some stress. People with higher self-esteem are said to perform better because they have lower cortisol responses to acute stress. So believe in yourself and repeat “I can do it!” And if you want to know how to increase your confidence, then check out this video.
Headphones in, stress out—
Listening to your favorite tracks, especially mellow music, has a beneficial effect on our body. It slows the pulse and heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and decreases the levels of stress hormones.
And now for the bonus tips
This is my favorite one! Eating a bar of dark chocolate helps to keep stress at bay because it contains antioxidants which help in reducing cortisol levels.
Overthinking is over—
Friendly wizard Newt Scamander said, “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice”. We can all learn from him and stop worrying about situations beyond our control. Remember, just live in the moment!
So, stay calm, peaceful and safe and Happy Learning