Step 6: Stress, Body, Mind

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Stress, Body, Mind

When a baby is born, the very first thing he has to deal with is to adapt to the temperature outside of the mother’s womb.  Then he has to learn to cry to get to be fed.  As he begins to grow his environment becomes more and more complex with stressful situations occurring at an increasing pace.  So, stress is our daily companion.  When we are able to cope with those, they are harmless, but, when we fail to do so, they hurt.

step6imageComboa6dbStress in early childhood years coming from physical, mental or sexual abuses can render body’s psychological stress system highly sensitive to stress.  This is our hpa (hypothalamic pituitary adrendal) axis which normally responds to stress and works to neutralize its activation and thus normalize the effects of stress on our internal system.  However, in situations when stress continues to exist the internal bodily reaction from stress does not ease.  During an acute stress, the body’s autonomic nervous system is also activated along with the hpa axis.  The ans innervates most vital organs of the body like the heart, lungs, stomach, intestine, vascular and muscular system.  When activation occurs these organs are overstimulated which then produce the somatic feelings causing bodily distress?  These symptoms correspond with symptoms of anxiety and are normal responses in acute stress.  But in chronic stress, symptoms continue to produce physical and mental discomfort.  Persons with childhood stress areparticularly vulnerable to increased anxiety and depression.

Physical manifestation of anxiety symptoms can lead to multiple visits to physicians’ offices and hospital emergency rooms.  Endless tests are performed with no evidence of physical findings.  Some people find it difficult to believe that there is nothing physically wrong with them as the symptoms they experience are so real.  They find it hard to believe that it is all in their mind.

Extensive work with neuroimaging techniques has now brought evidence to demonstrate how our brain functions in various situations in life.  The finding of neuroscience very well portrays the relationship that exists between our mind and the body.  The limbic system, which is the seat of our emotion, has a very rich connection with most functional centers of our brain and can thus exert significant control over our bodily functions.  We, therefore, see physical expression of symptoms of depression and anxiety, constantly reminding us of this body-mind relationship.

Continuous stress through its activation of hpa axis and the autonomic nervous system can also lead to various psychosomatic disorders like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, migraines, etc.

We tend to ignore or rationalize stress symptoms.  Such symptoms are the body’s way of expressing its distress and we must pay attention to restore the body and mind to its normal health as much as possible.