How Stress Changes Your Brain

Daily Stress vs. Actual Danger

Your body is hard-wired to respond to threatening situations with the fight-or-flight response. When you encounter a perceived threat (maybe you see a snake or a stranger approaches you in the dark), your brain sets off an alarm system via the hypothalamus. A surge of nerve and hormonal signals prompts the adrenal glands on your kidneys to produce adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure. Cortisol, the “Stress Hormone”, increases glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream to prepare your muscles to flee the dangerous situation. Cortisol also stops nonessential functions such as immune system function, digestion, reproductive and growth processes. This natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation, and fear.

The problem is, your body cannot always distinguish between actual threats vs. the daily stressors you encounter. Approaching work deadlines, rushing to get ready so you aren’t late for an event, a near-miss traffic accident, your children crying…all of these stressors can cause your body to go into fight-or-flight mode. In this case, your body prepares to flee the “danger” with a surge of stress hormones, but you never actually have the chance to physically flee. On the contrary, you probably continue to encounter multiple stressful situations in the day as you continue working, traveling, or parenting. Your body has no opportunity to use up the cortisol that was released. Therefore all the stress hormones build up in your bloodstream and are stored in your brain and tissues.

Stress hormones affect all body systems

Excess stored cortisol causes many symptoms and increases your risk of certain diseases:

  • weight gain (especially in the abdominal area)
  • generalized anxiety
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • increased blood sugar, increased risk of diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease
  • headaches
  • decreased thyroid function, higher risk of hypothyroid disease

How to help yourself

Managing stress is a major challenge. We live in a burn-out culture where being BUSY is the norm, and everyone juggles too many tasks at once without taking time to rest. The truth is, most of us do need to continue working, driving in traffic, and fulfilling all of our daily responsibilities. But continuing to push our limits and burn the candle at both ends leads to adrenal fatigue and a host of

health problems listed above. So what can we do? The key is to increase your resilience to the inevitable stressful situations you’ll encounter.

Acupuncture- Acupuncture regulates the nervous system. It can halt the stress response for people who have anxiety and can improve your body’s long-term reaction to stressful events. Acupuncture has been shown in research studies to release the brain’s natural endorphins, which have a calming and euphoric effect, mimicking the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, your acupuncturist can help you optimize your organ function and reduce the effects of chronic stress on your cardiovascular system, digestive system, and immune system. In other words, acupuncture harmonizes your physiological systems so you are more resilient to the daily stressors you encounter

Find the source of the problem with Lab Testing through Acu-Na: A Holistic Health Consultation with Mary Houge, ND can help clarify your body’s state of balance or imbalance. We offer HPA Profile testing to find out whether your neurotransmitters have been altered by your chronic stress. You will get an in-depth analysis of your levels of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in your brain) serotonin, dopamine, and gaba to determine if any of your symptoms can be alleviated with neurotransmitter balancing. We can also test your cortisol levels to see whether your body is making an inappropriate stress hormone response.

Natural Supplements: At Acu-Na Wellness Center we carry only our trusted and time-tested supplements that we have found to be the most effective for our patients.

  • Holy Basil- Also known as Tulsi Basil, it is one of the only supplements that can lower the stress hormone cortisol. It is renowned for its anti-depressive effects and for reducing anxiety. As an added bonus, it is high in antioxidants to protect your cells from damaging free-radicals.
  • Sanesco Neurotransmitter Therapy- our favorite line of treatment for reducing anxiety and balancing the mood, sleep, and appetite. Prolent, Lentra, and Adapticin regulate the adrenal glands (which secrete cortisol) and the serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
  • Chinese Herbal Formulas- Chinese herbs can help correct the energetic imbalances that contribute to irritability, anger, fear, anxiety, and insomnia. Xiao Yao Wan, “Free and Easy Wanderer” helps reduce frustration and tension-related headaches or pain. Gui Pi Wan settles the heart and supports hormone balancing to reduce anxiety and irritability.

Escape- It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily lives and get used to feeling constantly rushed, overworked, and like there’s always another task on the to-do list hanging over our head. It is so important to interrupt this cycle by getting away from the stressors of your life and re-aligning with who you are on a deeper level. That’s why we offer our Jamaica Women’s Retreats to offer you a healing space to SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE and remind you of what’s truly important and nourishing to your soul. There are 3 different weeks available in February, March, and April 2020. Find out more at Shakti Lifechanging Retreats.

Summary: Chronic stress increases cortisol, which interferes with most of your body’s physiological processes and leads to anxiety, weight gain, and disease. Acu-Na Wellness Center is here to help you manage stress and decrease cortisol through acupuncture, lab testing, natural supplements, and healing retreats.

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