Stress: A double-edged sword

Stress is an emotion that you experience when you fail to cope up with the demands. It reflexes the pressure put on the body and brain. Thus, it is an adaptive response of the body that is controlled by the brain.

Stress occurs when you encounter a sudden danger or before a challenge, such as job interviews, presentations at work, financial obligations, or a shocking event.

During a stressful situation, your brain floods chemicals and hormones that are responsible for stress to your body. 

How it works, and what are the hormones?

The front-line hormones responsible for stress are adrenaline, along with norepinephrine (noradrenalin), and cortisol.

The stress activates the central stress response system, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, as it is comprised of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex.

During fight or flight response to acute stress, nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. Their release into the bloodstream causes increased blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, trembling, and sweating.

Once the amygdala, a part of the brain realizes the fear, it activates the hypothalamus to release corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). It further triggers the pituitary gland to release another hormone called adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), which tells adrenal glands to release cortisol.

The level of various other hormones changes to stress that include prolactin, and growth hormones.

Though, the optimal amounts of cortisol can be life-saving. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, produce acne, contribute to obesity, and more.

Stress is good or bad!

Not all stress is bad. In scientific terms, good stress is called eustress. During low-level stress, in the case of non-life-threatening situations, your brain uses more oxygen, and increases activity which supports creativity, positive feelings of excitement, satisfaction, and keeps you motivated.

But the long-term stress is harmful to your health. The episodes of acute stress may lead to chronic stress, with the symptoms of headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability. Overtime it contributes to serious health issues that include, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

To maintain good physical and mental health, stress management is very essential. Involving yourself in creative aspects, regular exercise, relaxing activity, setting goals, stay connected, and even good eat and sleep are the effective practices that may help you to cope with stress.

The happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins act positively and aids to overcome stress.

Written by: Yashaswini Devi G. V., JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

Artwork: Yashaswini Devi G. V.

Edited by: Dr. Venkatesan Jayachandran

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