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Stress and mental health

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Stress can lead to mental health issues. Even when stress is good and we need some of it, the wrong type of stress for long periods of time deal to depression or anxiety, and it can get worse.

We do need stress, some of it, small doses of stress is necessary for all of us to maintain optimal health, to grow and get stronger mentally and emotionally. We know that when we are under stress our body activates the “fight or flight” response and with this our breathing and heart rate increases, our muscles get tense all the focus and energy are concentrated in the best way possible to fight or run because we´re in danger so our body prepares to keep us safe. This response of stress is beneficial in some situations, this is why small doses of it are good, when we are out of danger our body returns to a normal and calm state.

Thanks to the way we´re living nowadays the levels of stress stay high, they don´t return to normal. How can we keep stress low when we need to go to school or job to do something we don´t like, when we don´t know how we´re going to make it until the next pay check, bills keep coming, relationships are not going well, someone close to you got diagnosed with a chronic or immune disease and for some reason everything seems to get worse. All this tress every day leads to chronic stress.

The reason why stress can lead to mental health issues is because stress release certain neurotransmitters like adrenaline and serotonin and it also increase or decrease certain hormones like cortisol as part of the fight or flight response. All this changes that take place on our body due to stress affect negatively the brain. We all know that when we are stressed we can´t think properly, we are not able to find solutions or make the right choices, it´s harder to learn, etc; this are just some symptoms we are aware when we feel highly stressed, but think about how this affects our entire body when stress remains high.

We´ve talked about the immune system in other posts, when we are in danger and the stress response is activated, our body is not able to fight viruses and toxins, it can do it for a short period of time which is why short doses of stress are good, it makes us stronger but when it´s over it leads to disruption of systems and hormones this includes the neurotransmitters and the brain in general.

You may have heard of PTSD which can be develop after an accident or a traumatic experienced when the person affected keeps recalling or having flashbacks and nightmares about it. PTSD is not the only mental health problem that can be caused by stress, depression and anxiety too.

Unfortunately we are use to live with high levels of stress and we think it´s fine, we don´t even think we are living with high levels of stress which is what makes the problem huge. I don´t think our body is able to handle daily stress and things get worse when we go through a really hard situation or moment, that´s when our life seems to fall apart and everything is out of control, this moments can break us which is why we´re seeing a lot more diseases so we need to find ways we can manage daily stress so what we need to do is preferably avoid doing things you hate, spend time with people you love and feel comfortable spending time together, but most of us can´t change school or job that easy so finding tools or strategies that help you lower stress is the best option. We´ve talked a lot about mindful meditation and breathing exercises which are a great tool.

Now when we talk about stress and mental health we also need to talk about food, what we eat can increase or lower stress and it can also improve the symptoms of any mental health or make it worse, this is why we need to be really aware of what we eat, stress can increase inflammation and it will impact our brain so eating a healthy diet that reduces and keeps inflammation low will also help our brain.

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Pam