Stress: Isn’t in Your Head – it’s in Your Nervous System

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When stressed your body reacts by releasing chemicals in the blood. Stress lets your body responds to good and bad experiences, which can be detrimental to your health.

Numerous diseases and pathological conditions originate from stress. The effects on the nervous system has been studied for over 50 years. There are several divisions. The central division involves the brain and the spinal cord. The peripheral division consists of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems. The autonomic nervous system has a direct link to physical stress and is divided into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

SNS contributes to what is known as the “fight or flight.” Flight or fight is the body’s response to perceived threat or danger. SNS signals the adrenal glands that release hormones called adrenalin and cortisol. Hormones with direct action and autonomic nerves cause the heart to beat faster. Your respiration rate increases causing, shortness of breath and rapid breathing. Your musculoskeletal system reacts and blood vessels in arms and legs dilate. Your gastrointestinal system let glucose levels increase in the bloodstream. PNS has opposing effects on SNS. PNS facilitates the recovery from a stressed state to unstressed state. Overactive PNS can contribute to another stress reaction.

The central nervous system is very important in triggering a stress-response as it regulates the autonomic nervous system. It plays a central role in interpreting a potential threat.

Your stress levels and the duration of stress determines the intensity of long term effects on the nervous system.

Stress can cause structural changes in different parts of the brain. Chronic stress can decrease the brain mass and lead to atrophy. These structural changes are believed to be the cause of the different ways to respond to stress, cognition, and memory.

Physiology studies show that stress response memory lives in your nervous system. If it is not dealt with, it remains in your body tissue. Every time you encounter a stressful event the traumatic memory is recalled.

Unprocessed stress becomes a traumatic memory that lies dormant in your body and leads to a state of sympathetic charge and hormonal release damaging your health. Should you encounter stress in your early life it can change the development of the nervous system and the way your body reacts to stress.

Stress induces beneficial and harmful effects on your brain.

Beneficial effects involve preserving homeostasis of cells which directly relates to continued survival. Stress can temporarily improve your memory and the function of your brain. In certain circumstances, stress can even sharpen your memory. This condition is associated with a decline in the level of cortisol.

The harmful effects of stress receive more attention and recognition due to individual and personal involvement.

Medical institutions should put more focus on the role of stress on various diseases and should treat patients using pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapeutic interventions.

Everyone responds differently to stress therefore particular treatment should be adopted for different patients.

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