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Recognizing symptoms of chronic stress

Stress is a part of life and helps boost our abilities. Being chronically stressed however is extremely harmful. But how do we know if we suffer from chronic stress? In my personal experience and in working with others, I’ve realized most of us don’t know the signs of chronic stress. Thus, we go about our day without realizing the harm that is occurring inside our bodies. I thought then, that it would be good to write a post to pinpoint one of the most common symptoms that occur when we’re chronically stressed.

A great way to gauge whether chronic stress is present in our lives is to review how booked and busy our days are. If we find that we’re always filling our day with activities and errands simply because we want to be busy, that’s a strong indication that we’re always under stress.  By always having our days full of things to do, our mind becomes occupied with more than one thing at a time. Consequently our creative capabilities begin to deteriorate. We work with an agitated mind, our body fatigues and we create an anxious environment all around us. As a result we become disconnected with those with whom we live, work, and associate.

We should keep in mind that all our actions are no more or less than manifestations of our thoughts. Under the conditions described above, what is happening to our brain? It’s important to remember that there are laws to the biochemical and microbiologic order in our bodies that can’t be changed. For example, the conscious part of our brain cannot process and focus on more than one thing at a time. The idea that we can focus on several things at the same time and achieve success and happiness is false. On the other hand, our minds can do a lot of calculations and organize files and information that it receives from our five senses through drawing from experiences and neural connections. This is done by the brain independent of us being conscious of what’s occurring. During this process hundreds of millions of connections simultaneously occur without us even realizing it. However, the effectiveness our brains have during this process depends on the current focus in the area of our conscious mind.

I’ll give you an example that happens to all of us on nearly a daily basis. If I’m on the phone with my friend and at the same time reading an email, my mind can’t completely process the information I’m receiving from either activity. While I may be able to pay just enough attention so that my friend thinks I’m engaged, inevitably this lack of focus will create a mess in my relationship with them. Aside from the social damage, this also creates a problem in the brain since the memory files being created are formed with incomplete information. This creates confusion and false perceptions. In order for information to be properly processed the brain requires that the information be complete. Even if the information received is correct, the mind won’t be able to permanently store it for future use. The brain- specifically the hippocampus cannot store partial information. This is important to understand because the hippocampus is where all information is kept temporally.  From there it is sent to the frontal section of the brain where it is permanently stored. That’s why it can be so easy to forget important events at work, our personal life, etc when we’re stressed; this gets us in trouble which adds to our existing burden of stress and the cycle of being overloaded and busy worsens.

In addition to forgetting things, the physiological state of the brain is also impaired, increasing inflammation and biological stress at the cellular level at the molecular level.  This affects the way in which enzymes, known as Telomerase, work in the process of cellular regeneration.  This leads to an accelerated aging.

When we try to handle multiple activities at the same time we put ourselves in a position that hurts us in a number of ways. Reasons certainly vary on why we may manage our lives in such a way, whether those reasons are happening at a conscious or unconscious level. The important thing is to recognize what is going on and then start making the changes necessary to live our lives in a way so that life becomes pleasurable.  Whatever may be the situation in our own lives that leads to chronic stress, there is a definitive conclusion – there isn’t a single thought that doesn’t have an effect on our bodies.

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