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"Nothing is ever good or bad but thinking makes it so"

Shakespeare's quote illustrates how our reactions to stress are completely individualised. Even facing exactly the same circumstances, my reality of a situation may be completely different from yours, and thus our stress experiences will also differ.

Witnessing a traffic accident or falling over in the street are common stressors to all of us, as they elicit the uncontrollable and spontaneous Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) involving adrenalin and its compatriots. Adrenalin kicks in within several seconds, and takes about 10 minutes to lose its effect. These reactions are primitive 'fight or flight' mechanisms to ensure we live to tell the tale. They are essential and not long acting and pose no threat to our health unless there is no reprieve from them over time.

Most internally-generated stressors however, tend to be chronic or long-term. Preparing one's tax returns or organising the family for Christmas Day are individual stressors; they arent common to all of us. Our psychological makeup, social and cultural norms, childhood upbringing and personal experiences all determine how we react to stress. So our thoughts, attitudes and belief systems surrounding situations and relationships which cause us grief over many years can contribute to disease processes.

It is now understood that a history of childhood trauma, and hence stress, increases the risk of adult depression. Both chronic stress sufferers and clinically depressed people commonly display increased circulating cortisol levels.

High levels of cortisol also appear to reduce serotonin levels, one of the 'happy' neurotransmitters. And reduced serotonin levels are displayed in depression. Nearly all anti-depressant drugs available in Australia work by prolonging serotonin's actions, making it more biologically available. And, interestingly, drugs which inhibit cortisol also have an anti-depressant action.

Long-term stress eventually makes you depressed, prevents you from sleeping well, makes you anxious, dampens your appetite and predisposes you to infections and other diseases.

We can't control the stressors in our lives but we can learn to manage life's daily stresses through time management, regular relaxation, playtime and nutritional choices for your health both now and for the future.

If you don't look after your body
where are you going to live?