On any given day, the brain sends and receives countless messages through the secretion of chemicals. The happy chemical messengers like serotonin and endorphins are responsible for all the good things you feel. Other chemicals do their work to help you deal with other situations, for e.g. adrenaline to deal with danger or cortisol during stress. Most chemical messengers work independently of each other however stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers and stops them from doing their job.
Everyone has a predetermined stress tolerance level. This is a genetic quality, and you can’t really do anything about it. Most people have a sufficient stress tolerance level that allows them to go through life without many problems. That doesn’t mean that they don’t face moments of madness when stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers causing a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Almost 10% of all people, though, have a low stress tolerance. This means that the chemicals in their brain become imbalanced even at low levels of stress. Such people are overstressed all the time and suffer from all sorts of stress-related problems including insomnia, mental issues, lethargy, confidence issues, etc. When overstress becomes chronic, it can change the brain’s entire chemical makeup.
Stress and Happy Chemical Messengers
When a person feels stressed, the effectiveness of the brain’s happy chemical messengers begins to become less and less. The sad messengers remain unaffected, and so the brain is flooded with sad messages. Negative chemical messengers begin to overload the system causing a chemical imbalance, in other words, overstress.
The good news is that although stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers, the brain has the power to produce enough happy messengers to deal with it. Feeling stressed is perfectly normal and is actually needed by the mind to ensure proper functioning. It is overstress that is dangerous.
You need to make sure that you never run out of happy messengers. There are ways you can push yourself to activate them.
Here is how stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers individually:
- Cortisol and Serotonin
Serotonin is a happy messenger responsible for regulating sleep and maintaining the body clock. It also regulates body temperature and influences social behavior, both essential elements for happiness.
During stress, the body produces a hormone called cortisol, a stress fighting chemical which affects serotonin levels in the body. Cortisol prepares the body for the worst. You become more alert to danger; hunger is affected and so is sleep. Basically, it does not allow the body to relax. You become lethargic with low energy levels, your social behavior suffers. Happiness becomes a distant dream.
- Stress and Dopamine
Dopamine is the pleasure center of your brain. If there were insufficient dopamine in your system, you wouldn’t feel happy about the things that make you feel happy in normal circumstances. Stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers by reducing dopamine production. This affects your feelings of pleasure, and you find it hard to feel happy about anything.
Furthermore, dopamine levels are directly related to endorphin levels. When dopamine levels fall in the body so do endorphin levels, which brings us to our next point.
Endorphins are happy messengers produced by the body as a reward after going through extreme physical exertion. They are basically responsible for regulating pain and allow the human body to go through intensely painful situations easily.
The human body has some levels of endorphins at all times. Stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers by affecting these endorphin levels. When this happens, your threshold of pain endurance decreases. What once you thought of as a minor injury, becomes more painful.