Thursday, October 8, 2009

Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 3: The Stress Response System

(What I am sharing is paraphrasing from The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques which is my monthly challenge book, as well as other sites from the Internet.)

The Stress Response System is a system to get you energy when you need it. 

As mentioned in the last post, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) tells your organs to get busy and respond to a demand for action, such as extra heart activity and respiration so your muscles can get more energy when climbing a flight of stairs for example. 

In order to have the energy you need for this to happen, you need some chemical assistance from hormones. Adrenalin and Cortisol are two hormones needed for stress and they travel through the bloodstream. This makes the body release glucose and fat (or stores of fuel) that your muscles will use while burning energy when having to work hard.

At Speaking of Faith they have this to say about Coritsol,

"Cortisol is one of nature's most powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. In "The Mind-Body Interaction in Disease," Sternberg describes this hormone and the role it plays in managing stress in the body: "Cortisol is a steroid hormone that increases the rate and strength of heart contractions, sensitizes blood vessels to the actions of norepinephrine (an adrenalinelike hormone) and affects many metabolic functions — actions that help the body meet a stressful situation. In addition, cortisol is a potent immunoregulator and anti-inflammatory agent. It plays a crucial role in preventing the immune system from overreacting to injuries and damaging tissues. Furthermore, cortisol inhibits the release of CRH by the hypothalamus — which keeps this component of the stress response under control. Thus, CRH and cortisol directly link the body's brain-regulated stress response and its immune response."
The stress response can work for any length of time. Small little releases of energy or short powerful bursts of energy or long extended periods of stress response when you are in an emotional situation or under the burden of high expectations. 

"The stress response is the body's natural defence mechanism for dealing with danger. If activated for short periods of time the stress response will not cause the individual undue harm. However, if it is activated and sustained over long periods of time then both psychological and physical damage is likely to be experienced by the individual."

In our case, we can become very anxious if we let ourselves stay stressed for too long.

Have you joined the monthly challenge yet? If so, tell me all about what you are reading and what you are learning about on the discussion forum! If not, there's still plenty of time to get started.

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Anonymous said...

How cool that you are sharing very relevant info about anxiety with us! I appreciate all the research you are doing . . and your paraphrasing is easy to read.

Thank you!

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

Fear of Driving Guy said...

Amen. The more people understand the stress response and the role chemicals like cortisol pay, ht less "mystery" anxiety will have.

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