Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stress: Portrait of a Killer

Stress: Portrait of a Killer is a 2008 National Geographic documentary starring Stanford neurologist Robert Sapolsky.

In the state of nature, stress is a survival mechanism. When faced with a burst of danger from a predator, the stress response switches on to change the running mode of the whole body. Just as importantly, the stress response switches off when the imminent danger has passed and returns to the body to its normal running mode. The 'fight or flight' mechanism is not unhealthy stress when limited to actual fight and flight.

However, the psychological pressures of modern social life have switched on the stress response and left it on. Stress has become a chronic psycho-physiological condition with sweeping impact. Prenatal stress passed in a stressed mother's blood to the developing fetus is insidious with fundamental lifelong effects. The obvious symptoms - fat around the middle, stomach pain, frequent illness, reduced memory and cognitive function - point to a chronically stressed condition. I worry about the symptoms that are less sensorially apparent. Stress not only adds negative effects, it also dampens dopamine reception so that pleasure is reduced.

Always cut down stress wherever possible. Construct a healthy social environment. Physically hard work is not stressful. Anxiety in all its caustic forms is stressful. Control is an antidote to stress.

Add: Good stress includes diet, exercise, and fasting.



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