Whenever we talk about stress, the first thought that comes to our mind is that stress is harmful to our health or is something that could kill you but stress is something that keeps you alive when you are being chased by a lion.
Scientific studies have shown that people with the negative thoughts about stress are more likely to die early than those who think that stress is not bad for our health. To prove our theory that how changing our perception of stress can help us live a healthy life, we first need to know the new science of stress.
What happens in stress?
Stress is organism's response to a stressor that helps them to perform well. What happens in stress is that when a person is placed in a stressful environment, its hypothalamus is triggered and releases a corticotropin releasing hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland to release ACTH. ACTH in returns stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
Cortisol is also called as the stress hormone. It regulates the changes that occur in the human body during stress. It controls blood sugar level and helps reduce inflammation. It also controls your blood pressure.
During stressful condition, our heart pumps blood faster, and our blood vessels are contracted to cope with the stressful situation.
Recent studies show that our stress system is working in exactly the way in which it should work. So the question arises, where the problem lies? And the answer is, the problem lies in our mind. It lies in our perception of the stress and in the way with which we deal the stress.
Positive Side of Stress:
Whenever a person goes to a psychologist for the consultation, Psychologists tell them that stress is making them sick and stress is responsible for their cardiac or any other problem. In short, the patients are being told the dark side of the stress. I agree we cannot deny these facts but to be healthier; we need to change our mind about stress and when we change our mind about stress our body changes our response towards stress.
Commonly in stress, our blood vessels are constricted. It's not really healthy to be in this state all the time, but when we think about stress response as helpful, the blood vessels remain in relaxed condition even in a stressful condition. And this is a much healthier vascular profile. This mostly happens in moments of joy and courage. This can make a difference towards a healthy life. And this what the new science of stress reveals that how you think about stress matters. So instead of getting rid of stress, we need to be better at stress.
So when next time you face a lot of stress you need to remember that this is my body supporting me rise to this challenge. And when you see stress in that way your body believes you and your stress response becomes healthier.
The Love Molecule:
The idea that most of us are not aware of is that "Stress makes you social." To understand this concept we are going to talk about a hormone called oxytocin. It's also named as Love molecule or cuddle hormone. It is released when you hug someone. It is also a neuro hormone and fine-tunes your brain social instincts. It makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family, and it is also involved in enhancing your ability to empathize. It makes you compassionate and caring.
The thing most people are not aware of is that oxytocin is also a stress hormone. Oxytocin is released when a person is under stressful condition. As oxytocin is released, it is actually motivating you to seek support. It forces you to tell someone how you feel instead of battling with it alone. It also helps you notice if someone else in your life needs your help so you can support each other.
My favorite effect of oxytocin is on the heart. Oxytocin helps in regenerating your heart cells when they are damaged under stress condition and makes it's more stronger. This is how it protects your cardiac vascular system by acting as a natural anti-inflammatory by keeping our blood vessels to stay in relax position.
The oxytocin action is enhanced by social support and contact. So when you help someone or seek the support you release more of this hormone, and your stress response becomes healthier, and this helps you to recover faster.
This is really amazing that your stress response has a mechanism of stress resilience and that is a human connection. So next time whenever you experience stress remember this that how you think and how you act can totally change your experience about stress. Always remember everything about the new science of stress.