Chronic Stress Doesn’t Stay in Your Head


Chronis Stress

Story at-a-glance

  • The term psychological stress is misleading, because no stress is solely psychological… it’s not all in your head
  • Chronic stress interferes with your immune system, causes epigenetic changes, and triggers systemic inflammation that can cause numerous chronic diseases

Anxiety over a project at work… a marital spat… financial trouble… health problems… the list of potential stressors is endless, but wherever your stress is coming from, it likely starts in your head.

An inkling of worry might soon grow into an avalanche of anxiety. It might keep you up at night, your mind racing with potential “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. Worse still, if the problem is ongoing, your stressed-out state may become your new normal — extra stress hormones, inflammation, and all.

While beneficial if you’re actually in imminent danger, that heightened state of stress – the one that makes your survival more likely in the event of an attack, for instance – is damaging over time.

The thoughts in your head are only the beginning or, perhaps more aptly, are the wheels that set the harmful mechanism known as chronic stress into motion – and, once spinning, it’s very easy to spiral out of control. As reported in Science News:1

“Stress research gained traction with a master stroke of health science called the Whitehall Study, in which British researchers showed that stressed workers were suffering ill effects.

Scientists have since described how a stressed brain triggers rampant hormone release, which leads to imbalanced immunity and long-term physical wear and tear.

Those effects take a toll quite apart from the anxiety and other psychological challenges that stressed individuals deal with day to day.”

Stress: It’s Not Just in Your Head

You know the saying “when it rains, it pours”? This is a good description of chronic stress in your body, because it makes virtually everything harder. The term psychological stress is, in fact, misleading, because no stress is solely psychological… it’s not all in your head.

Let’s say you lose your job or are struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from abuse you suffered as a child. Excess stress hormones are released, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Your stress response becomes imbalanced; it’s not shutting off.

Your immune system suffers as a result, and epigenetic changes are rapidly occurring. The stress is triggering systemic low-grade inflammation, and suddenly your blood pressure is up, your asthma is flaring, and you keep getting colds.

That cut on your leg just doesn’t seem to want to heal, and your skin is a mess. You’re having trouble sleeping and, on an emotional level, you feel like you’re nearing burnout.

Stress is very much like a snowball rolling down a mountain, gaining momentum, gaining speed and growing until suddenly it crashes. That crash, unfortunately, is often at the expense of your health.

Stress Increases Heart Attack Risk by 21-Fold

Police officers clearly face amplified stress on the job, and researchers found they were 21 times more likely to die of a heart attack during an altercation than during routine activities.2 This isn’t entirely surprising until you compare it to heart-attack risk during physical training, which increased only seven fold.

The difference in physical exertion between the two circumstances likely doesn’t account for the increased risk… it’s the level of stress being experienced that sends heart attack risk through the roof.

More heart attacks and other cardiovascular events also occur on Mondays than any other day of the week.3 This “Monday cardiac phenomenon” has been recognized for some time, and has long been believed to be related to work stress.

During moments of high stress, your body releases hormones such as norepinephrine, which the researchers believe can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of your arteries.4 This dispersal can allow plaque deposits to suddenly break loose, thereby triggering a heart attack.

Stress contributes to heart disease in other ways as well. Besides norepinephrine, your body also releases other stress hormones that prepare your body to either fight or flee. One such stress hormone is cortisol.

When stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes increasingly desensitized to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.5 Chronic inflammation is a hallmark not only of heart disease but many chronic diseases.

Stress Linked to Diabetes and a Dozen Other Serious Consequences

People who grow up in poor socioeconomic conditions have higher levels of inflammatory markers, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). They’re also twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults, a risk researchers say is partly due to the elevated inflammation.6

People who suffered child abuse also tend to have higher levels of chronic inflammation, as do those who act as caregivers for loved ones. As reported in Science News:7

“Scientists are now digging deeper, sorting through changes in gene activity that underlie inflammation and receptor shutdown. For example, childhood stress might get embedded in immune cells called macrophages through epigenetic changes — alterations that affect the activity levels of genes without changing the underlying DNA.

Psychologist Gregory Miller of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., suggests that these changes can endow the macrophages with pro-inflammatory tendencies that later foster chronic diseases.”

Prolonged stress can also damage your brain cells and make you lose the capacity to remember things. The brain cells of stressed rats are dramatically smaller, especially in the area of their hippocampus, which is the seat of learning and memory.

Stress disrupts your neuroendocrine and immune systems and appears to trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer’s disease. Stress-induced weight gain is also real and typically involves an increase in belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat for your body to accumulate, and increases your cardiovascular risk.

Stress alters the way fat is deposited because of the specific hormones and other chemicals your body produces when you’re stressed. Stress clearly affects virtually your whole body, but according to neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress:

Cardiovascular disease Hypertension Depression
Anxiety Sexual dysfunction Infertility and irregular cycles
Frequent colds Insomnia and fatigue Trouble concentratingv
Memory loss Appetite changes Digestive problems and dysbiosis

Stress Can Cause Stomach Disorders

Digestive problems made Dr. Sapolsky’s list above, which makes sense because the stress response causes a number of detrimental events in your gut, including:

  • Decreased nutrient absorption
  • Decreased oxygenation to your gut
  • As much as four times less blood flow to your digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism
  • Decreased enzymatic output in your gut – as much as 20,000-fold!

To put it simply, chronic stress (and other negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness) can trigger symptoms and full-blown disease in your gut. As Harvard researchers explain:8

“Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection. In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.”

Interestingly, the connection works both ways, meaning that while stress can cause gut problems, gut problems can also wreak havoc on your emotions. The Harvard researchers continue:

“This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.”

Stress Changes Immune Response and Cell Behavior

Stress is implicated in cancer, not so much as a cause of cancer but because it seems to fuel its growth (or interfere with processes that might otherwise slow it down). For instance, the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine encourage the growth of blood vessels that help prostate tumors to grow. Meanwhile, in women with pelvic growths (who were awaiting tests to see if the growths were cancerous or benign), those with good social support (and presumably therefore less stress) had more immune attack cells directed at the masses, Science News reported.9

Stress has also been shown to increase the likelihood of cancer spreading, or metastasis, which is a major cause of cancer death, by 30-fold.10 Chronic stress also leads to disrupted cortisol signaling. In the case of excess cortisol exposure, some cell receptors become muted, including receptors on immune cells. This is one reason why people under stress are about twice as likely to develop a cold after exposure to a cold virus, compared to non-stressed people. 11,12

Factors That Make Stress Worse

Dr. Sapolsky explains that you are more vulnerable to stress if the following factors are true:

  • You feel like you have no control
  • You’re not getting any predictive information (how bad the challenge is going to be, how long it will go on, etc.)
  • You feel you have no way out
  • You interpret things as getting worse
  • You have no “shoulder to cry on” (e.g., lack of social affiliation or support)

People at the top of the social pyramid feel a greater sense of control because they are the ones who call the shots, as well as typically having more social connections and resources at their disposal. This results in less stress, which over the long run translates to lower rates of disease. Stress is also closely related to the experience of pleasure, related to the binding of dopamine to pleasure receptors in your brain. People of lower socioeconomic status appear to derive less pleasure from their lives. Perhaps this is why laughter therapy is so effective at relieving stress.13

On the brighter side, positive emotions like happiness, hope, and optimism also prompt changes in your body’s cells, even triggering the release of feel-good brain chemicals. While you can create happiness artificially (and temporarily) by taking drugs or drinking alcohol, for instance, the same endorphin and dopamine high can be achieved via healthy habits like exercise, laughter, hugging and kissing, sex, or bonding with your child. If you’re wondering just how powerful and effective this can be, a 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes:14

Lower risk of heart disease Stress reduction Fight fatigue
Boost your immune system Fight infections Ease depression

EFT Is Incredible for Stress Relief

Regular stress management is crucial for just about everyone. For some, this might include staying away from negative or overly stressed individuals, or at the very least turning off the nightly news if it is too upsetting, to avoid feeling empathic stress. Ultimately, however, what you do for stress relief is a personal choice, as your stress-management techniques must appeal to you and, more importantly, work for you. If a round of kickboxing helps you get out your frustration, then do it. If meditation is more your speed, that’s fine too.

Even having a good cry now and then may be beneficial, as tears that are shed due to an emotional response, such as sadness or extreme happiness, contain a high concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) — a chemical linked to stress. One theory of why you cry when you’re sad is that it helps your body release some of these excess stress chemicals, thereby helping you feel more calm and relaxed. Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be very effective as well, by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. This is important as, generally speaking, a stressor becomes a problem when:

  • Your response to it is negative
  • Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances
  • Your response lasts an excessively long time
  • You’re feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered, or overworked

When you use EFT, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. — and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the “short-circuit” — the emotional block — from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of chronic stress. You can view a demonstration below.

Watch the video discussion. URL:https://youtu.be/K-HAoas3lEk

While the video above will easily teach you how to do EFT, it is VERY important to realize that self-treatment for serious issues is NOT recommended. It can be dangerous, because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process as there is an incredible art to this process and it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on deep-seated, significant issues.

Source:mercola.com

Stress Doesn’t Stay in Your Head


Chronis Stress

Story at-a-glance

  • The term psychological stress is misleading, because no stress is solely psychological… it’s not all in your head
  • Chronic stress interferes with your immune system, causes epigenetic changes, and triggers systemic inflammation that can cause numerous chronic diseases

Anxiety over a project at work… a marital spat… financial trouble… health problems… the list of potential stressors is endless, but wherever your stress is coming from, it likely starts in your head.

An inkling of worry might soon grow into an avalanche of anxiety. It might keep you up at night, your mind racing with potential “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. Worse still, if the problem is ongoing, your stressed-out state may become your new normal — extra stress hormones, inflammation, and all.

While beneficial if you’re actually in imminent danger, that heightened state of stress – the one that makes your survival more likely in the event of an attack, for instance – is damaging over time.

The thoughts in your head are only the beginning or, perhaps more aptly, are the wheels that set the harmful mechanism known as chronic stress into motion – and, once spinning, it’s very easy to spiral out of control. As reported in Science News:1

“Stress research gained traction with a master stroke of health science called the Whitehall Study, in which British researchers showed that stressed workers were suffering ill effects.

Scientists have since described how a stressed brain triggers rampant hormone release, which leads to imbalanced immunity and long-term physical wear and tear.

Those effects take a toll quite apart from the anxiety and other psychological challenges that stressed individuals deal with day to day.”

Stress: It’s Not Just in Your Head

You know the saying “when it rains, it pours”? This is a good description of chronic stress in your body, because it makes virtually everything harder. The term psychological stress is, in fact, misleading, because no stress is solely psychological… it’s not all in your head.

Let’s say you lose your job or are struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from abuse you suffered as a child. Excess stress hormones are released, including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Your stress response becomes imbalanced; it’s not shutting off.

Your immune system suffers as a result, and epigenetic changes are rapidly occurring. The stress is triggering systemic low-grade inflammation, and suddenly your blood pressure is up, your asthma is flaring, and you keep getting colds.

That cut on your leg just doesn’t seem to want to heal, and your skin is a mess. You’re having trouble sleeping and, on an emotional level, you feel like you’re nearing burnout.

Stress is very much like a snowball rolling down a mountain, gaining momentum, gaining speed and growing until suddenly it crashes. That crash, unfortunately, is often at the expense of your health.

Stress Increases Heart Attack Risk by 21-Fold

Police officers clearly face amplified stress on the job, and researchers found they were 21 times more likely to die of a heart attack during an altercation than during routine activities.2 This isn’t entirely surprising until you compare it to heart-attack risk during physical training, which increased only seven fold.

The difference in physical exertion between the two circumstances likely doesn’t account for the increased risk… it’s the level of stress being experienced that sends heart attack risk through the roof.

More heart attacks and other cardiovascular events also occur on Mondays than any other day of the week.3 This “Monday cardiac phenomenon” has been recognized for some time, and has long been believed to be related to work stress.

During moments of high stress, your body releases hormones such as norepinephrine, which the researchers believe can cause the dispersal of bacterial biofilms from the walls of your arteries.4 This dispersal can allow plaque deposits to suddenly break loose, thereby triggering a heart attack.

Stress contributes to heart disease in other ways as well. Besides norepinephrine, your body also releases other stress hormones that prepare your body to either fight or flee. One such stress hormone is cortisol.

When stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes increasingly desensitized to cortisol, and since inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone, this decreased sensitivity heightens the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.5 Chronic inflammation is a hallmark not only of heart disease but many chronic diseases.

Stress Linked to Diabetes and a Dozen Other Serious Consequences

People who grow up in poor socioeconomic conditions have higher levels of inflammatory markers, including interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). They’re also twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults, a risk researchers say is partly due to the elevated inflammation.6

People who suffered child abuse also tend to have higher levels of chronic inflammation, as do those who act as caregivers for loved ones. As reported in Science News:7

“Scientists are now digging deeper, sorting through changes in gene activity that underlie inflammation and receptor shutdown. For example, childhood stress might get embedded in immune cells called macrophages through epigenetic changes — alterations that affect the activity levels of genes without changing the underlying DNA.

Psychologist Gregory Miller of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., suggests that these changes can endow the macrophages with pro-inflammatory tendencies that later foster chronic diseases.”

Prolonged stress can also damage your brain cells and make you lose the capacity to remember things. The brain cells of stressed rats are dramatically smaller, especially in the area of their hippocampus, which is the seat of learning and memory.

Stress disrupts your neuroendocrine and immune systems and appears to trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer’s disease. Stress-induced weight gain is also real and typically involves an increase in belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat for your body to accumulate, and increases your cardiovascular risk.

Stress alters the way fat is deposited because of the specific hormones and other chemicals your body produces when you’re stressed. Stress clearly affects virtually your whole body, but according to neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer, the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress:

Cardiovascular disease Hypertension Depression
Anxiety Sexual dysfunction Infertility and irregular cycles
Frequent colds Insomnia and fatigue Trouble concentratingv
Memory loss Appetite changes Digestive problems and dysbiosis

Stress Can Cause Stomach Disorders

Digestive problems made Dr. Sapolsky’s list above, which makes sense because the stress response causes a number of detrimental events in your gut, including:

  • Decreased nutrient absorption
  • Decreased oxygenation to your gut
  • As much as four times less blood flow to your digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism
  • Decreased enzymatic output in your gut – as much as 20,000-fold!

To put it simply, chronic stress (and other negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness) can trigger symptoms and full-blown disease in your gut. As Harvard researchers explain:8

“Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection. In addition, research suggests that some people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people do because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain seem even worse.”

Interestingly, the connection works both ways, meaning that while stress can cause gut problems, gut problems can also wreak havoc on your emotions. The Harvard researchers continue:

“This connection goes both ways. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. That’s because the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system are intimately connected — so intimately that they should be viewed as one system.”

Stress Changes Immune Response and Cell Behavior

Stress is implicated in cancer, not so much as a cause of cancer but because it seems to fuel its growth (or interfere with processes that might otherwise slow it down). For instance, the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine encourage the growth of blood vessels that help prostate tumors to grow. Meanwhile, in women with pelvic growths (who were awaiting tests to see if the growths were cancerous or benign), those with good social support (and presumably therefore less stress) had more immune attack cells directed at the masses, Science News reported.9

Stress has also been shown to increase the likelihood of cancer spreading, or metastasis, which is a major cause of cancer death, by 30-fold.10 Chronic stress also leads to disrupted cortisol signaling. In the case of excess cortisol exposure, some cell receptors become muted, including receptors on immune cells. This is one reason why people under stress are about twice as likely to develop a cold after exposure to a cold virus, compared to non-stressed people. 11,12

Factors That Make Stress Worse

Dr. Sapolsky explains that you are more vulnerable to stress if the following factors are true:

  • You feel like you have no control
  • You’re not getting any predictive information (how bad the challenge is going to be, how long it will go on, etc.)
  • You feel you have no way out
  • You interpret things as getting worse
  • You have no “shoulder to cry on” (e.g., lack of social affiliation or support)

People at the top of the social pyramid feel a greater sense of control because they are the ones who call the shots, as well as typically having more social connections and resources at their disposal. This results in less stress, which over the long run translates to lower rates of disease. Stress is also closely related to the experience of pleasure, related to the binding of dopamine to pleasure receptors in your brain. People of lower socioeconomic status appear to derive less pleasure from their lives. Perhaps this is why laughter therapy is so effective at relieving stress.13

On the brighter side, positive emotions like happiness, hope, and optimism also prompt changes in your body’s cells, even triggering the release of feel-good brain chemicals. While you can create happiness artificially (and temporarily) by taking drugs or drinking alcohol, for instance, the same endorphin and dopamine high can be achieved via healthy habits like exercise, laughter, hugging and kissing, sex, or bonding with your child. If you’re wondering just how powerful and effective this can be, a 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. According to one study, this includes:14

Lower risk of heart disease Stress reduction Fight fatigue
Boost your immune system Fight infections Ease depression

EFT Is Incredible for Stress Relief

Regular stress management is crucial for just about everyone. For some, this might include staying away from negative or overly stressed individuals, or at the very least turning off the nightly news if it is too upsetting, to avoid feeling empathic stress. Ultimately, however, what you do for stress relief is a personal choice, as your stress-management techniques must appeal to you and, more importantly, work for you. If a round of kickboxing helps you get out your frustration, then do it. If meditation is more your speed, that’s fine too.

Even having a good cry now and then may be beneficial, as tears that are shed due to an emotional response, such as sadness or extreme happiness, contain a high concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) — a chemical linked to stress. One theory of why you cry when you’re sad is that it helps your body release some of these excess stress chemicals, thereby helping you feel more calm and relaxed. Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be very effective as well, by helping you to actually reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life. This is important as, generally speaking, a stressor becomes a problem when:

  • Your response to it is negative
  • Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances
  • Your response lasts an excessively long time
  • You’re feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered, or overworked

When you use EFT, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. — and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the “short-circuit” — the emotional block — from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of chronic stress. You can view a demonstration below.

 

Stress Could Be Destroying Your Brain — Here’s How 


Mouse

That’s one stressed mouse.

Long-term stress can have lots of effects on the body—it can cause chronic muscle tension, heart problems, and fertility issues in both men and women. Now researchers have performed a new study in mice that they believe reveals another effect of chronic stress on the brain: Inflammation, which can lead to memory loss and depression. The researchers published their study today in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, the researchers stressed out several mice by periodically putting a much more aggressive mouse into their cage. After six days of exposure, the stressed mice could no longer recall the location of a hole to escape a maze, which they remembered easily before the stressful period began. “The stressed mice didn’t recall it. The mice that weren’t stressed, they really remembered it,” said Jonathan Godbout, a neuroscience professor at Ohio State University and one of the study authors in a press release. For four weeks after the trauma, the mice continued to cower in corners, the mouse equivalent of social avoidance, a major symptom of depression.

The researchers suspected that the stress was affecting the mice’s hippocampi, a part of the brain key to memory and spatial navigation. They found cells from mice’s immune system, called macrophages, in the hippocampus, and the macrophages were preventing the growth of more brain cells.

The stress, it seemed, was causing the mice’s immune systems to attack their own brains, causing inflammation. The researchers dosed the mice a drug known to reduce inflammation to see how they would respond. Though their social avoidance and brain cell deficit persisted, the mice had fewer macrophages in their brains and their memories returned to normal, indicating to the researchers that inflammation was behind the neurological effects of chronic stress.

This isn’t the first study to point out the connection between chronic stress and memory loss, or between inflammation and depression. But it provides a new, promising link between all four. That could help doctors prescribe more immune-focused treatments for conditions like anxiety and depression, some of which are being tested now, as the New Scientist reports.

How chronic stress rewires your brain and creates mood disorders.


The medical is big on theorizing about your chemicals and adding more into the mix. Traditionally trained doctors, however, give little thought into what causes deficiencies in the first place, especially when those causes are psychological.

This is why research into the effects of chronic stress is so important. The effects of psychological stress move beyond the mental, right into your brain chemistry. The following study demonstrates specifically how this happens.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found that those who suffer from chronic stress experience long-term changes in their brain that makes them susceptible to mood disorders and high anxiety.

Associate professor of integrative biology Daniela Kaufer and a team of researchers have studied the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain that governs emotion and memory. They found that chronic stress causes the brain to generate fewer neurons and more myelin-producing cells than normal. This results in more white matter in certain areas of the brain, disrupting the balance and timing of communication within the brain.

stress

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Kaufer believes that it may be possible that prolonged stress may develop a stronger connection between the hippocampus and the area of the brain responsible for a person’s fight or flight response, while weakening the hippocampus’ connection with the prefrontal cortex, which moderates those responses.

This would result in quicker fear responses, as well as a reduced ability to shut down those responses. Kaufer is currently involved in a study to test this hypothesis.

Kaufer’s lab also discovered that chronic stress affects the development of stem cells located in the hippocampus. Ordinarily, these cells are believed to only develop into a type of glial cell known as an astrocyte. Under the effects of chronic stress, however, these cells matured into a different type of glial cell called an oligodendrocyte, which produces myelin.

These cells also help form synapses. Kaufer believes that because fewer neurons are formed under chronic stress, this could explain why it has such an effect on memory and learning. She is now conducting experiments to see if early-life stress reduces a person’s resilience later in their life.

Five ways we heap stress upon ourselves

Chronic, negative stress can be eliminated, however, we tend to cling to it in various ways. Here are five of them.

1. Refusing to exercise

Physical exercise is among the most effective ways to reduce stress. And it may be essential. You’d be hard-pressed to find any health authority, conventional or alternative, who doesn’t promote regular exercise to reduce stress and balance the mind and body.

Yet, we are a nation of couch potatoes. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 80% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical exercise.

2. Neglecting to treat PTSD

Chronic stress that comes from unresolved physical, sexual and emotional trauma can be devastating. Fortunately, it is one of the most treatable mental health issues. Therapeutic use of modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and cognitive behavioral approaches have a very high success rate in eliminating the flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares and chronic restimulation of past trauma.

It’s understandable that some people fear the treatment, but also very unfortunate that more people don’t take advantage of these options. If you have emotional trauma in your past, isn’t it time to deal with it and let go? You absolutely can, with help.

3. Catastrophic over-commitment to busy-ness

To say that people keep themselves busy these days is an understatement. In fact, being busier than you can handle is almost a status symbol. If you can say, “Oh I am so busy that I can barely think straight” it must mean that you are not a loser.

When you can’t say no to work, family and community opportunities, you tend to over do it and live with more on your plate that you can possibly accomplish. This adds up to stress.

4. Horrific nutrition

The standard Western diet is full of sugar, artificial chemicals, caffeine, gluten, candida-promoting foods, alcohol, bad fats and empty calories that make it impossible for your body to balance itself. When your standard fare is junk, you will end up mentally and emotionally depleted and more stressed than you would be otherwise.

Water is an essential part of nutrition as well. And most people don’t get enough. The Panhandle Health Districtsuggests that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated and that lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

5. Psychological attachments and self-sabotage

This is the granddaddy of them all, in my opinion. Self-sabotage will compel you to say yes when you mean no, eat and drink junk that makes you feel bad, stay up late when you need to get up early, waste time, work too much and hang around people who tend to control, reject or deprive you.

Self-sabotage draws you toward the negativity in life as if you belonged there. Amazingly, self-sabotage usually feels passive. In other words, it happens on autopilot, as if it were happening to you and not a product of your own decisions (until you understand how it works).
Chronic stress is the inevitable result.

It’s possible to live a simple, calm life that is relatively free of chronic, negative stress. Lack of exercise, PTSD, over-committing, bad nutrition and self-sabotage will prevent this from happening. From the results of the above study, it is apparently causing brain damage.

Sensory Deprivation Chamber: Would You Get Into One?


First introduced by Neuro-psychiatrist John C. Lilly in 1954, a Sensory Deprivation Chamber is a light-less, soundproof enclosure, filled with salt water that is kept at skin temperature.

In this chamber a person will float weightless on the water with their senses deprived (hence the name Sensory Deprivation Chamber). They are unable to see or hear anything, all while because of the water being the same heat as your body, subjects have been noted to have said “it all just fades away” and all that’s left is the mind.

In this pitch black pod, you float on the surface of a pool of water set at body temperature. Sight, sound and eventually touch are all muted so only your thoughts remain. It is an experience that makes the user feel weightless.

Its first use was in Neuro-physiology, to answer a question as to what keeps the brain going and the origin of its energy sources. One hypothesis was that the energy sources are biological and internal and do not depend upon the outside environment. It was argued that if all stimuli are cut off to the brain then the brain would go to sleep.

Lilly decided to test this hypothesis and, with this in mind, created an environment which totally isolated an individual from external stimulation. From here, he studied the origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain. From then on it has been used for various treatments such as Stress Therapy, Alternative Medicine, and Meditation. Research at the Human Performance Laboratory at Karlstad University concludes that regular flotation tank sessions can provide significant relief for chronic stress-related ailments. Studies involving 140 people with long-term conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression and fibromyalgia found that more than three quarters experienced noticeable improvements.

Would you get into a Sensory Deprivation Chamber? Have you been in one? What’s your thoughts? 

Source: whydontyoutrythis.com

The science behind positive thinking your way to success.


Psychology expert RIchard Boyatzis says there is strong evidence to suggest that regular physical or leisure activities throughout the day stokes compassion and creativity at work.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activating our parasympathetic systems stokes compassion and creativity, say scientists
  • Positivity increases when workers are given more flexibility in their roles
  • Research shows chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions.

 

Editor’s note: “Thinking Business” focuses on the psychology of getting ahead in the workplace by exploring techniques to boost employee performance, increase creativity and productivity.

 Whether it’s infuriating colleagues, inept management or a lack of appreciation, the modern day workplace can be a positivity free zone.

Sometimes counting to ten or daydreaming of a desert island just won’t purge the everyday monotony of office life and it’s common to become trapped in a spiral of negativity.

But regular coffee breaks, yoga and even praying to a loving god could change all that.

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According to psychology expert Richard Boyatzis, these simple exercises can engage the parasympathetic nervous system — the function responsible for relaxation and slowing the heart rate — resulting in renewed optimism and improvements in working relationships.

Boyatzis, psychology and cognitive science professor at Case Western Reserve University, said there is strong neurological evidence supporting the theory that engaging our parasympathetic systems — through regular physical or leisure activities — stokes compassion and creativity.

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“Strain causes a person to be cognitively, perceptually and emotionally impaired,” he said, “if you’re under pressure and stress at work, then you can’t think outside the box because you can’t see the box.”

Boyatzis maintains that chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions from performing to their best. He argues that while we need stress to function and adapt, too much can cause the body to defend itself by closing down.

“You have to engage your parasympathetic nervous system so that you change your hormonal flow,” Boyatzis told CNN, adding that mood and positivity can be “infectious” in the workplace, particularly in positions of leadership.

He added: “If you’re having a horrible marriage, or your teenage kids are dissing you right and left, you get to work and it’s very likely that you are just a bummer.”

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Evidence shows that positivity increases when workers are given increased flexibility in their roles and more work-life balance, according to a report on well-being and success produced by the World Economic Forum [WEF].

[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments.”
Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist.

Meanwhile, the report showed bad management and bullying in the workplace can have a damaging effect on employees’ physical and mental health.

Can positivity and happiness lead to success?

A recent study by the University of California entitled ‘Does Happiness Promote Career Success,’ professors concluded that ‘happy people’ are more satisfied with their jobs and report having greater autonomy in their duties.

Additionally, they perform better than their less happy peers and receive more support from coworkers.

Finally, positive individuals are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be physically healthier and live longer.

And the debate over happiness and work goes way back in history. Ancient Greek philosopher Galen said employment is “nature’s physician, essential to human happiness.”

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Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist, told CNN that when people are positive at work it can lead to opportunities because they are more engaged and resilient:

“[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”

But in a study entitled ‘Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?’ the results concluded that positive attitudes can sometimes lead to poor problem solving.

If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm.”
Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute

The study also stated that the evidence to suggest happy people are more popular and have superior coping abilities is “almost non-existent.”

Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute — an organization that focuses on workplace behavior — believes that a constant state of positivity in the workplace can be “dangerous.”

“There’s certain things that have to be challenged,” she said, “certain things that have to be improved you can’t just constantly think that everything is going to be fine and positive.”

Schwartz-Hebron — a former Israeli military lieutenant — said to improve working life, it is first necessary “to rewire your brain” by creating new experiences and engaging two different cerebral systems; the explicit and the implicit memory.

The explicit is responsible for storing information and facts while the implicit memory relies on previous experiences to perform a task and is associated with the subconscious.

“If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm,” said Schwartz-Hebron, who runs workshops for Fortune 500 companies.

She added: “We typically work in very, very negative environments because our expertise is actually in difficult change.”

“[The people we work with] don’t see the need for the change; they don’t feel the problem is being defined correctly or they don’t believe that the solution is correct.”

The study by the University of California concludes that while positive emotions are particularly important to encourage optimal success at work, it is important for employees and those in positions of leadership to experience both positive and negative feelings in day to day routine.