The more I dig into this topic, the more interesting it gets. That’s true with most of the topics, isn’t it? Anyhow, I found some intriguing studies and facts about stress and cortisol, and I couldn’t help but share my summaries with you. Happy learning!
1. Our stress resilience develops early in infancy
Have you ever wondered why some people are more tolerant of stress than others? The answer might lie within the babyhood. When the stress response produces a burst of cortisol, we need to calm down to disperse it. A baby needs an adult to do that for her; otherwise, the infant can become flooded with cortisol.
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt explains that baby’s chronic stress can lead to an adult who’s not able to recover quickly from stressful events. Hence, loving adults taking care of the child’s needs is crucial for developing a healthy stress resilience.
2. Stress can make us prone to high-risk decisions
MIT Neuroscientists studied the behavior of rats and mice and discovered that making decisions was dramatically affected by chronic stress. The distressed animals were more likely to choose high-risk, high-payoff options.
It’s not hard to find a real-life, humane example of it. For instance, I can recall crossing a street unsafely. Afterward, I realized that it wasn’t smart, but I took the risk due to my stress and rush.
From now on, packed with the knowledge of stress and decision-making, I’ll try to be more conscious of my decisions.
3. Experiencing moderate stress makes us tougher
When life gave me a bucket of rotten lemons, the familiar cliche shouting “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” caused nothing but repulsion in me. When the dust settled down, I found some a new feeling of surviving, whatever happens in my life. In fact, studies confirm that some (but not too much!) stress and adversity is good for us.
Research by Seery and colleagues found out that people with a history of some lifetime adversity had better mental health and higher life satisfaction over time compared to those with no history of adversity. So here’s a more accurate lyric tip for the famous songwriters:
“In moderation, whatever does not kill us may indeed make us stronger.” -Seery et al., 2010.
4. Stress can be measured by saliva
There have been different ways to measure stress levels from questionnaires and interviews to blood and urine tests. Nowadays it‘s quite easy to track the amount of salivary cortisol from a tiny portion of saliva — that’s how many of the stress-related studies collect information on their participants.
As health tracking and mobile apps are taking steps further, we’ll soon measure our stress at home with our smartphones. Technology seems to shape the future of health with endless possibilities to upgrade our wellness.
5. Our senses can’t learn under stress
Scientists already knew that stress could prevent the retrieval of memories, but the study by Dr. Hubert Dinse and his colleagues discovered something new. Participants who got a dose of cortisol didn’t show as much perceptual learning compared to the placebo group. Cortisol blocked the ability of senses to learn by suppressing the strengthening of synaptic connections in the brain.
If you’re distressed and feel overwhelmed by something, don’t be too hard on yourself — maybe you just need to apply some anti-stress actions on your daily routines.
Originally published at medium.com