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Oct12

Written by:Sondra Harry
10/12/2009 9:41 AM 

We frequently hear the question; Will my chronic stress cause a mood disorder? Well not everyone who experiences a stressful event will develop incapacitating depression or anxiety. In turn, not everyone who has a mood disorder has experienced overwhelming stress.

 

Chronic Stress?
Connection between Emotions and your Brain
 
 
We frequently hear the question; Will my chronic stress cause a mood disorder? Well not everyone who experiences a stressful event will develop incapacitating depression or anxiety. In turn, not everyone who has a mood disorder has experienced overwhelming stress.
 
It is important to remember that what we feel and think begins with what our brain perceives. Our emotions should not be viewed as intangible, uncontrollable experiences. Our senses give us the ability to perceive, which is then processed at many levels by our brain. Ultimately, it is our brain that generates our feelings as well as our thoughts.
One of our most fundamental responses to stress is hard wired in our brain, the “flight or fight” response. The hypothalamus signals your adrenal glands to release mostly epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol (the “stress hormone.”). Epinephrine increases your heart and breathing rate, sending more blood and oxygen to your muscles and brain to give you a jolt of energy. Even your vision is fine tuned with the contraction of your pupils. Cortisol elevates glucose levels in the bloodstream and maximizes the brain's use of the sugar as well as slows down nonessential functions like those of the digestive and reproductive systems, so that your energy can be directed to the emergency at hand.
Our bodies have been well equipped to respond to acute physical threats. However, in today’s world it is not a bear charging us who then disappears, but we are inundated with stresses that won’t let up such as psychological threats, marital discord, financial troubles, or the death or dying of a loved one.
The chronicity of these experiences may keep us in crisis mode, which in turn maintains a high cortisol level. The pathology behind the relationship of chronic stress and mood disorders is not fully understood; however, cortisol is clearly a huge player. Stressful events will induce changes in brain chemistry, hormones and neurotransmitters, may predispose you to depression and anxiety.
 
What can be done to control stress? It is this brain chemistry that can be controlled by “re-training” the brain using biofeedback, meditation. and discipline to stick with the practice. Relaxation therapy and basics such as good quality nutrition, sleep and exercise are critical to control stress. Lastly, it is useful to consider how we can respond to our daily stresses in a healthier manner. Remember, the way we view our life experiences is a choice. Do we choose to be positive? Do we choose to make the best of our circumstances and be thankful for our best? Do we choose to heal?

Copyright ©2009 Dr. Sondra Harry

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