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Measuring Stress- ABKpsych

Do me a favor. Take a second to look to your left and your right. Go ahead- it won’t hurt you. Those people who are (or are not) around you, including yourself, are all very likely to be one thing: Stressed.

Stress is the unfortunate baggage of being a modern human. We exist in a sea of overstimulation, snooze buttons, classes, aggressive bosses, bad relationships, death, and worst of all (In the words of Moose) “everything“. Stressors can be real or imaginary, positive or negative, and large or small (Gazzaniga). they exist along a string of emotions, reactions, and environments that make it a much larger blob of existence than we may care to admit.

I want to discuss stress because of the lesser known fact that stress has significant health effects. Namely that when you are stressed your body increases the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, the main result of an adrenaline rush. You may know that Adrenaline rushes elicit heightened awareness, pupil dilation, and more energy output.

What’s so bad about being more aware? Well It can have massive problems for neural cells. Adult humans do not actively create Neural Cells at the same rate as children do. In fact adults barely seem to create any. So when Neurons die we lose a lot more than we can gain. This is a problem because high levels of cortisol are toxic neurons, flooding the brain with rapid activity at a cost: neural burnout. Think light bulbs with too much electricity put into them, but then make those light bulbs circuits in a computer, and make that computer your brain. Boom, there goes a few hundred memories (sort of- the cells that die are new cells). In fact high cortisol levels can cause neurons to avoid forming new connections, and can even reduce the size of your brain (Bernstein). This means that stress disrupts working memory and long-term memory. Highly stressed individuals have difficulty recalling life events and forming memories of them.

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17 Comments

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I felt as if I’ve gone through a biology class. It’s rare that I find a clear explanation of a specific subject, which you’ve handled professionally. I admire that talent 😊

This is a topic dear to my heart. Stress is so detrimental to our physiological and psychological wellbeing, yet it is so often overlooked or minimized. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the MRI images of how brains are affected by stress, particularly those of the developing brain. There are particularly well-known images of the brains of Romanian orphans, showing how stress (particularly caused by neglect and disrupted attachment relationships) results in major physiological changes in brain development. On the other side of the coin, there are also such promising studies on the positive impact on brain physiology of strategies such as meditation and mindfulness. Studies that show our resilience, and neuronal plasticity, even as adults… Minds and bodies are tightly woven, you cannot affect one without affecting the other.. Consistent and chronic activation of the fight/flight/freeze response (and increased cortisol levels) is such a major symptom of anxiety disorders..

You probably know all this, so I’m sorry, it’s just a topic I find hard not to get on a soap box about. I was SO happy to read your well-researched words in such an important topic. Awesome in fact. I had a very vebose response to it!!!

Happy everything, and you should start carrying less text books at a time! 😂

Actually I haven’t seen the MRI image data yet! I’ll have to look that up.

I would say that our time in history is all about dealing with stress, and I have to add that this really is a wonderful time to be alive because of this. Your comment should be on billboards as a happy little PSA for everyone!

Thank you, as always, for being so engaging. Absolutely loved this comment.

Absolutely happy everything. And I’ll be sure to get a book bin next time!

i hear you! there is so much to say about the effects of stress—and some stress is good for us. Some healthy stress/pain/suffering. It’s totally normal! Lest we grow weak. And so kinstugi (beautiful image by the way)…keep writing, my friend. 🙂

I’m glad you said this! It really is normal and we can get through it.
Hopefully the next ABKpsych will cover the topic in a more uplifting light too!

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