What happens to our mind and body when we are under stress?
Many people think that the main effects of stress are psychological or related to our emotions. In reality, they are physiological and have to do with our bodies, our immune system, our gut, the way our DNA is transcribed, and even the way we age and how long we live.
In fact, the brain affects the body just as much as the body affects the brain because they are entirely connected.
Science shows that there are four types of connections that link the emotional centers in our brain to our nervous, endocrine and immune systems, as well as our gut and our heart. These emotional centers in your brain have one major role to play: to keep us alive.
- The first connection is a constant neurological communication that is active 24/7, 365 days per year, every second, even every millisecond, and it is our brain sending and receiving signals to the rest of our body.
- The second connection is between our neuroendocrine and immune systems. The neuroendocrine system regulates our stress response via nervous and hormonal signals, while the immune system fights off germs and bacteria in order to keep us healthy. This connection uses chemical messengers that each of these systems secretes into our circulatory system. These chemicals travel to the other organs so that the brain can read what is happening in the body, and the body can read what is happening in the brain.
- The third connection is the brain-gut connection. Sometime in your life, you have probably experienced a powerful gut feeling about something that you ignored and then you regretted ignoring afterward. The reason this happens is that the gut is connected to the brain and sends many more signals to the brain than vice-versa, and when the gut receives messages from the brain, it processes them, and magnifies them, and then sends them back up to the brain. Therefore, those gut feelings that you experienced actually tell you the whole picture while your thoughts only tell you a small piece of the picture.
- The fourth connection is the heart-brain connection. It turns out that the heart itself has its own nervous system in the pericardium, which is the membrane that surrounds the heart. In this membrane, there is a network of nerves which have predictive capacities. Basically, when people say “I knew it in my heart,” it is because they used the little brain in their heart that is connected to the bigger brain in their head.
Bottom line, whatever happens to us emotionally, how we live our lives, and how we experience stress, has a huge impact on our bodies because we are one system with many parts, all working together.
When we don’t address stress, it becomes chronic and then we experience what is called toxic stress. This stress can accumulate in our body and brain, and like a lethal cocktail, circulate in our body, affect our health and well-being, and alter how our genes are transcribed, how we age, and when we die.
How can we prevent stress from becoming chronic and toxic?
The answer is practicing self-care. We need to create and practice our own healing rituals to nurture our brains and our bodies. We need to develop an attitude of responsibility towards our own selves and honor ourselves as we honor anyone who is precious to us.
I hope this helps you.
Now, I would love to hear from you. What’s one thing you are doing today to prevent stress, that you can do not just today, but every day?
Leave a comment in the comment box below and let me know.
And if you want to learn some very powerful rituals of self-care, go to my website and download my free audio-training of the 4 rituals that will change your life forever.
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And remember you have the power to harness your stress into growth, health, and happiness!