A Guide to Overcoming Stress, Anxiety, and Depression -part-1

Scientific studies prove that stress has a significant influence on the physiology of our bodies, contributing to many acute and chronic diseases. A report by the World Bank states that 1 in 5 people suffer from depression or anxiety. Individual stresses that may encounter in everyday life include physical, chemical, infectious and psychological pressures.

The stress cycle involves our thoughts, emotions, the chemical reactions in our brain, our body and the physical sensations we feel as a result of these. Once this process begins it snowballs, gains momentum and life may feel out of control. The first stage, our thoughts is the most powerful as it is not the event that causes us stress, but the way we react to it. Ideas start in the cortex of the brain and move quickly to the limbic system or midbrain where our emotions lie. Negative thoughts trigger an immediate emotional response such as anger, fear, hatred, grief, regret, anxiety, sadness, embarrassment or jealousy. These thoughts stimulate our nervous and hormonal systems to release stress hormones, most notably adrenaline and cortisol from our adrenal glands (kidney bean shaped glands which sit above our kidneys). In response, chemicals released throughout the body which reaches the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the release of more hormones and stress chemicals. The final stage of the stress cycle is activated as these chemicals alert every organ in the body to work faster. This results in symptoms such as sweating, tremor, anxiety, churning stomach, reduced salivation, dry mouth, increased muscular activity and hyperventilation, irregular heartbeat (palpitations), chest pain, visual disturbances, and tingling and numbness, as well as muscle tremors, exhaustion, general weakness, and sleep disturbances.

Once upon a time, it was very beneficial for the human body to undergo these physical changes, as the primary emotion experienced by our ancestors was fear triggered by an attack from a wild animal. The stress chemicals released during the attack enabled the early humans to push their bodies to the necessary extremes and escape the attack. In the 21st century, however, more complex stress emotions are triggered far more often, and they don't necessarily require a physical reaction. As a result, this continual stress response starts to wear out the body – the overproduction of stress chemicals and hormones eventually take its toll on the body and may eventually lead to cell death. Cortisol one of the potent hormones released by the adrenal glands in response to stress produces many of the adverse effects of long-term stress. This includes depletion of DHEA, a hormone which is essential for the manufacture of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone; an antidepressant and our so-called anti-aging hormone. A reduction in DHEA produces symptoms of fatigue, hormonal imbalance, depression, and general unwellness. Consistently elevated cortisol levels may also lead to a decrease in serotonin neurotransmission. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which required for a healthy mood. Low serotonin transmission is a significant defect in depression.

Stress Lowers Immunity

Immune system function is also adversely affected by excess cortisol leading to depression of antibacterial, antiviral defense and increasing our allergy response. This may result from symptoms such as frequent colds and flu, cold sores, hay fever, asthma, sinusitis, migraines, and food intolerances.

continued to part 2