Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 is between 14-20 May.
This year the Mental Health Foundation is focusing on stress. Research shows that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor.
In our brain, we have areas which specifically deal with stress – the Amygdala. Its function is to alert us to anything that poses a threat. The Lion on the plains of Africa is a threat, and our brains learn very quickly to avoid them. However, our modern lives are filled with stress. Rushing here and there. Driving on congested roads. Emails from irate bosses, colleagues and clients. The more you function in that primal part of the brain, the less work our pre-frontal cortex manages to do.
Our pre-frontal cortex – just behind the eyes – regulates our amygdalas, our blood pressure and heartbeat. It enables us to plan, learn, solve problems, concentrate and make decisions. Researchers at Yale found that when people were stressed, their amygdalas increased in size and the pre-frontal cortex begins to shut down, and can actually shrink, making it harder to focus and make decisions.
Too much stress bad for the immune system
Too much stress in one’s life is bad for your immune system, it can trigger inflammation which increases chances of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer. The cortisol released during periods of stress changes the way the body stores fat and is likely to increase the chance of becoming obese.
Johann Hari in his book Lost connections argues that depression is the result of modern society and the idea that chasing materialism and instability of the jobs market is the culprit. I personally think it’s a bit of everything. The values we are brought up with, the belief systems we grow up with. The value systems of the environment we grow up in. Whether we live in the town or country. What we eat. How well connected our social group is. All these things help us to live happier balanced lives. Instead of comparing ourselves to each other constantly, it may be we need to reassess what’s important to us.
Also see: Anxiety
Have a go at their quiz here: