A new research study suggests that individuals who worry excessively have more electrical activity in the brain than those who don’t. Michigan State University has conducted the study and believes that these new findings could help identifying treatment of anxiety disorders. To conduct the study, volunteers were asked to fill out questionnaires regarding how much they worry and placed on electrode caps to capture the electrical activity of the brain. They were asked to identify the middle letter in a series of letters. In some versions, all the letters were the same. Ex: EEEEE In other versions, the middle letter remained different EEFEE.
Data revealed that anxious women had more electrical activity in their brains during those selected tasks, compared to those who were not anxious. It has been concluded that the brains of anxious individuals work harder to perform tasks because of distracting thoughts. Consequently, their brains suffer from burning out more often.
The body does not know the difference between good stress and bad stress. It treats all stress the same—and as a result it can have long lasting harmful effects on the body. The adrenal glands release adrenaline and other hormones that increase breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, more oxygen-rich blood rushes through the body and gets to the brain in a quicker time, helping your body reach the flight-or-fight response.
For an anxious individual—the result is the same. Your body always remains in a ‘hyper’ state, even if you don’t feel like you are. Any state of being that is contrary to the natural rhythm of the body will induce these defense mechanisms within, to help control external stimuli that get us distressed. In a normal “once-in-a-while” stress reaction, other hormones shut down unnecessary functions in the body.
Growth, reproduction and the immune system go on a hiatus. Blood flow to the skin is reduced—and other processes go on that get us prepared to respond to a life-threatening situation. Having said this, imagine bodily, emotional, and mental impairment that may go hand in hand with chronic stress!
Chronic stress really does put a strain on the body, even if you feel fine and believe you can deal with it. With ongoing stress, you may find that your immune system is compromised more and more, making it almost impossible to fight in infections.
The stress response—the body's hormonal reaction to danger, uncertainty or change—evolved to help us survive, and if we learn how to keep it from overrunning our lives, it still can. In the short term, it can energize us, "revving up our systems to handle what we have to handle," says Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist at UCLA.
When perceived danger passes, your body tries to return back to homeostatic balance. However, with age — this process may become more and more difficult. Even though the sympathetic nervous system jumps into action immediately, it takes a while to slow down and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to take over.
However, some studies suggest that not all stress is bad stress. An appropriate stress response is necessary to life and studies have found that various hormones and neurotransmitters are activated when this process kicks in.
One of these neurotransmitters is Norepinephrine, which is needed to create memories as well as improve mood. Problems begin to be seen as challenges that can be overcome, and this in turn stimulates creative thinking that encourages new connections within the brain.
There has also been a connection between acute stress—and health benefits. For instance, meeting deadlines allows people to meet challenges at work. However, people often need to learn about healthy coping mechanisms to stress—since stress is, after all, an inevitable part of life at times. Stress can play a mental role in many ways.
One may think there is not enough time to accomplish the tasks at hand, or there may simply be too much to do and no knowledge of where to begin. The important thing to note is that many people have successfully combated stress by the aids of many forms of relaxation, beginning with meditation.
In conclusion—only you know when you are facing too much. The truth is, only you have control. You can choose to compromise your health by wallowing in chronic stress, or you can choose to address this stress in a positive manner, allowing yourself to relax and take time off as needed.
Numerous studies over the years have proven that meditation and other relaxation techniques are by far more beneficial that anti-anxiety medications and things of the sort. Be sure to listen to your body, and if something becomes too much for you to handle—take a step back and look at the situation and see what you would do differently.
"The Human Brain - Stress." Stress and the Mind-body Connection. The Franklin Institute, Web. 08 Sept. 2012. <http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html>.
Thoits, Peggy A. "Stress and Health." Stress and Health. Indiana University, Nov.-Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2012. <http://hsb.sagepub.com/content/51/1_suppl/S41.full>.