Stress is part of everyday life and it can also cause major issues. The human brain is incredible. It performs many functions that impact our well-being. The brain sends and receives countless messages through the secretion of chemicals, hormones and neurotransmitters.
Happy chemical messengers like serotonin and endorphins are responsible for all the good things you feel. Other chemicals help us to handle other situations, for example, adrenaline helps us to deal with danger.
Another example is cortisol, which is released when we experience stress. Most chemical messengers work independently of each other; however, stress interferes with the healthy functioning of the brain’s happy chemical messengers.
Everyone has a predetermined stress tolerance level. This is a genetic quality. Stress tolerance varies from person to person. We all experience intensity, emotion, or even anxiety when stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers.
Almost 10% of all people have low stress tolerance. This means that the chemicals in their brains become imbalanced, even at low levels of stress. This creates a continual experience of stress. This continual state can lead to all sorts of stress-related problems including insomnia, mental issues, lethargy, confidence issues, and more.
A continual state of stress can create a serious long-term impact. When stress becomes chronic, it can change the brain’s entire chemical makeup.
Stress and Happy Chemical Messengers
When a person is continually stressed out, the effectiveness of the brain’s happy chemical messengers begin to lessen. The sad chemical messengers remain unaffected, so the brain becomes flooded with sad messages. Negative chemical messengers begin to overload the system causing a chemical imbalance, in other words, a constant state of stress.
There is good news: it’s possible to overcome this. Although stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers, the brain has the power to overcome this. Feeling stressed is perfectly normal and in some cases, it is actually needed by the mind to ensure proper functioning. It is chronic stress that is dangerous.
To ensure that you maintain balance, there are ways you can activate those happy chemical messengers.
How Does Stress Impact Happy Chemical Messengers?
Here is a breakdown of how stress interferes with the brain’s happy chemical messengers:
Cortisol and Serotonin
Serotonin is a happy messenger responsible for regulating sleep and maintaining the body clock. It functions as both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. It regulates body temperature and influences social behavior. 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 danger. You become more alert, hunger is affected and so is sleep. Cortisol prevents the body from relaxing. You become lethargic with low energy levels, your social behavior suffers. Happiness becomes a challenge.
Dopamine is known as the “feel good” hormone. With 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 connected with 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.
This happy chemical messenger is released during times of bonding. Shared intimate experiences from breastfeeding to cuddling with loved ones cause oxytocin to release. This is important for trust and connection in relationships.
Simple Ways to Increase Levels of Happy Chemicals
While chronic stress is a serious condition that requires the support of a professional, there are ways you can support your brain and body in overcoming daily stressors. Here are five simple ways you can do this.
- Get outside: fresh air and nature are calming for the body and mind. Exercise can impact serotonin, dopamine and endorphin levels so exercising outside can make a huge difference to your stress levels.
- Breathe: take deep breaths to relax and calm your nervous system.
- Schedule time to rest, relax and reset: take a nap, read a book, or even do nothing. Stillness indicates to the body and brain that no danger is present and it can help to calm cortisol and adrenaline.
- Laughter: watch a funny show or get together with a friend and start cracking jokes. Laughter truly is medicine and it helps to boost dopamine and endorphins. Sharing a laugh with another person can also increase oxytocin.
- Reach out for support: if your stress levels are not decreasing, it may be time to ask for help. Access my programs here to help you overcome stress and anxiety.