Each person perceives stress differently and deals with stress in his or her own unique way. Though the thresholds vary, stress remains an inevetable part of everyday human life. All of us realise stress is damaging to health but fail to understand the direct effect of stress on our body and mind. Stress is not just a state of mind, but involves changes at a cellular level leading to various physical and mental illnesses. Stress is predominantly seen as something that affects ones mood and emotion but can have deep rooted consequences leading to long term physical illnesses.
All forms of physical and mental stress is modulated in our body via changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that governs a number of bodily functions including sleep, hunger, mood, libido etc. It also secretes hormones that govern other major organ systems. The pituitary gland is a pea sized gland in the brain which secretes hormones that control growth, blood pressure, sexual functions etc. When the body is stressed, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin releasing hormone, which stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete corticotropin which then acts on the adrenal grand to release cortisol.
Cortisol is otherwise known as the stress hormone and acts across the entire body to promulgate the stress response. Chronic stress leads to metabolic, immune and cognitive changes. This would roughly translate to increased blood sugar levels, poor immunity, anxiety and memory disturbances.
Sleep deprivation, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in addition to chronic stressful states result in abberant cortisol levels. This also leads to inflammatory processes that can directly lead to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, depression and anxiety disorders to name a few.
We can help manage stress, by improving coping mechanisms and by managing stressful mental conditions. Specific interventions like hypnotherapy and mindfulness have been proven to reduce stress and improve health and immunity.
Simple ways to beat stress
- Sleep adequately
- Get some exercise
- Eat nutritious food
- Keep your mind empty for atleast a few minutes a day
- Go easy on yourself, avoid stressful goals
- Smile more often, travel, visit friends.
Psychiatry is a medical speciality, like surgery, general medicine and paediatrics. It involves the study, diagnosis and management of mental illnesses and distressing conditons, pertaining to both the mind and body. Misconceptions about psychiatric illness and treatment have some how prevented help seeking behaviour in those who need it the most. This Wall has to go, wherin visiting a psychiatrist should no longer be taboo, and people should be able to openly and freely discuss mental health issues. More here.
Dr Vikas Prabhav is a psychiatrist in anna nagar, chennai. He runs The Vivid Mind mental wellness clinic in Anna Nagar. We aim at providing holistic, multimodal care for those suffering from mental illnesses and adjustment issues. We offer effective management strategies for depression, anxiety, unexplained physical symptoms, addictions, child/adolescent problems and other behavioural issues.The information provided in this website does not substitute for a medical consult.