Stress and aging…

In the July/August 2011 Scientific American Mind magazine.

General Adaptation Syndrome

A diagram of the General Adaptation Syndrome model.

Physiologists define stress as how the body reacts to a stressor, real or imagined, a stimulus that causes stress. Acute stressors affect an organism in the short term; chronic stressors over the longer term.

Selye researched the effects of stress on our bodies.

Alarm is the first stage. When the threat or stressor is identified or realized, the body’s stress response is a state of alarm. During this stage adrenaline will be produced in order to bring about the fight-or-flight response. There is also some activation of the HPA axis, producing cortisol.

Resistance is the second stage. If the stressor continues, it becomes necessary to attempt some means of dealing with the stress. Although the body begins to try to adapt to the strains or demands of the environment, the body cannot keep this up indefinitely, so its resources are gradually and eventually depleted.

Exhaustion is the third and final stage in the GAS proposal. At this point, all of the body’s resources are eventually depleted and the body is unable to maintain normal functioning. The initial autonomic nervous system symptoms may reappear. If stage three is extended, long term damage may result as the body, and the immune system is exhausted and function is impaired resulting in decompensation.

The result can manifest itself in obvious disorders such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, trouble with the digestive system or even cardiovascular problems, along with psychological distress.

By training your brain to be more resilient in the face of stress, you are more adaptable and better able to deal it.  Since each time we react negativity to a repetitive stressor we lose energy (exhaustion), by training your brain to not react and thus not lose precious energy, it has a deep effect on your aging process.  This is well known and has been well known by the Oriental Cultures.

The mani thing to remember is that the organism is regenerative as is our brain and we have learned to help our brain learn from its own dysfunctional behaviors.  Give it information about itself and it improves itself because it is an energy saving system in support of our own personal and species survival.