During a heat wave, the news warns us of record highs, dangerous air quality and protecting pets and elderly. You come inside from a quick walk to the mailbox drenched- gross! At this point in a heat wave, your body and your mind are telling you to stay in and stay cool.
But what about putting yourself in a stressful situation? Your body may through up a red flag or two, then through up a white one and just surrender. Are you the type to fight these dangerous situations or surrender?
The brain is the epi-center of decisions. Below I have found a great story-line illustration of what stress does to your body and brain.
“Attack of the Adrenals”-A Metabolic Story
The ambulance siren screams it’s warning to get out of the way. You can’t move your car because you’re stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam that reaches as far as the eye can see. There must be an accident up ahead. Meanwhile the road construction crew a few feet from your car is jack-hammering the pavement. You are about to enter the stress zone. Inside your body the alert goes out.
“Attention all parasympathetic forces. Urgent. Adrenal gland missile silos mounted atop kidneys have just released chemical cortisol weapons of brain destruction. Mobilize all internal defenses. Launch immediate counter-calm hormones before hippocampus is hammered by cortisol.”
Hormones rush to your adrenal glands to suppress the streaming cortisol on its way to your brain. Other hormones rush to your brain to round up all the remnants of cortisol missles that made it to your hippocampus. These hormones escort the cortisol remnants back to Kidneyland for a one-way ride on the Bladderhorn. You have now reached metabolic equilibrium, also known as homeostasis.
When a danger finally passes or the perceived threat is over, your brain initiates a reverse course of action that releases a different bevy of biochemicals throughout your body. Attempting to bring you back into balance, your brain seeks the holy grail of “homeostasis,” that elusive state of metabolic equilibrium between the stimulating and the tranquilizing chemical forces in your body.
If either the one of the stimulating or tranquilizing chemical forces dominates the other without relief, then you will experience an on-going state of internal imbalance. This condition is known as stress. And it can have serious consequences for your brain cells.
Homeostasis is sort of like a cool glass of water- it’s what your body craves in the heat.
So- stay cool out there. It’s a hot one.
~Author: Sarah A. Miller, MA at Miller Counseling Services, PC
The Franklin Institute Online. (2004). Renew- Stress on the Brain. Found online July 13th 2011 from http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html