The Science of Stress
What Is Stress?
It's the body's way of responding to any kind of higher than normal demand. When there is a stress response event, the body releases into the blood stream and triggers several physiological changes. Depending on the stress type, duration & frequency stress could be beneficial or harmful.
For example being exposed to moderate regular exercise or sauna exposure that allows for ample recovery is called "hormetic stress" which activates the body's adaptation response and build resilience. As opposed to "chronic stress" which would result by constantly overdoing it in the gym or being exposed to consistent emotional stress without adequate recovery time. This type of Chronic Stress is so powerful that it could lead to "trans generational" stress, meaning stress that is passed on to your future offprints.
Stress is regulated by a system of your body called the "Autonomic Nervous System" which is responsible for managing the involuntary functions of the human body, such as breathing and digestion.
Through our senses, we are constantly assessing our environment and automatically sending information to the brain where the brain instantaneously elicits appropriate changes throughout the body.
Autonomic Nervous System Overview:
The autonomic nervous system has two divisions – sympathetic and parasympathetic.
The Sympathetic System:
The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body to react to stresses such as threat or injury. It causes muscles to contract and heart rate to increase.
The Parasympathetic System:
The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of the autonomic nervous system that controls functions of the body at rest. It helps maintain homeostasis in the body. It causes muscles to relax and heart rate to decrease.
Our autonomic nervous system doesn’t differentiate between real danger and psychological stress.
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Fight or flight? Answering that question was a matter of life and death in ancient times.
Today, all it takes is the phone to ring to trigger that same ancient defence mechanism. It’s a false alarm that eats away our energy and, eventually, can make us sick.
Headaches, tension, insomnia, anger, a short temper – there are many symptoms related to stress. Chronic stress drains our vitality and makes us more susceptible to viral infections such as colds and the flu.
Some of the more serious illnesses linked to stress include high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and heart diseases. Latest studies show that stress-related heart attacks are on the rise.
What Is Heart Rate Variability?
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the naturally occurring beat-to-beat changes in heart rate/heart rhythms.
HRV is linked to your autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the balance between the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) and sympathetic (fight-or-flight) branches.
HRV is a powerful, objective and noninvasive tool to explore the dynamic interactions between physiological, mental, emotional and behavioural processes. HRV is a direct metric that measure Vagus Nerve Health.
Numerous studies have shown that HRV is a key indicator of physiological resiliency and behavioural flexibility, and can reflect an ability to adapt effectively to stress and environmental demands.
HRV offers a predictable measure of overall health. If you are stressed out, distracted, or not sleeping well, your HRV will go down.
People with consistently low HRV have a higher risk of:
HRV & the Vagus Nerve Connection:
HRV allows Brain Mechanics to direct quantify Stress, the Atomic Nervous System and most importantly the Vagus' Nerve overall health.
The Vagus Nerve is a key organ that modulates the Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous Systems and regulates several key subconscious functions that are vital to good health and wellness.
Vagus Nerve connects to several organs where it controls Important functions:
1.Heart (Decreasing heart rate, vascular tone)
2. Liver (Regulation of Insulin secretion & glucose homeostasis)
3. Gut (Increased gastric juices, gut motility & stomach acid production)
4. Brain (Regulate Anxiety & Depression, opposing fight or flight response)
5. Mouth (Taste Information transmission, gag reflex, swallowing & coughing)
6. Blood Vessels (Decreasing Vascular Tone, lowering blood pressure).
7. Body Wide (Suppresses Inflammation, via the Cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway)
Factors such as our breathing patterns, physical exercise, and even our thoughts are known to have directly impact the activity of the ANS, the vagus nerve and therefore can influence HRV.
Many of the digital wearables we prescribe & techniques we teach at Brain Mechanics have profound physiological effects and have been engineered with the purpose of helping our clients improve "vagal tone" (ie. making it stronger) which we then directly quantify via HRV measurements as part of several of our service offering.
Using the Brain Mechanics Method, our clients learn how to take complete control of your Autonomic Nervous System to increase their HRV, to decrease stress levels & reach the ZONE, a Flow State of Psychophysiological Coherence in order to perform at a peak states when it matters the most, while being able to rest and recover at deeper level.
Psychophysiological coherence is state of optimal function. Coherence is an indication of how efficiently the heart and lungs are working together.
Research shows that when we activate this state, our physiological systems function more efficiently, we experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive function.
Simply stated, our body and brain work better, we feel better, and we perform better.
Physiologically, the coherence state is marked by the development of a smooth, sine-wave-like pattern in the heart rate variability trace. This characteristic pattern, called heart rhythm coherence, is the primary indicator of the psychophysiological coherence state, which we are able to measure and quantify.
A number of important physiological changes occur during coherence. The two branches of the ANS synchronize with one another, and there is an overall shift in autonomic balance toward increased parasympathetic activity. There is also increased physiological entrainment—a number of different bodily systems synchronize to the rhythm generated by the heart (see figure below).
Finally, there is increased synchronization between the activity of the heart and brain.
When the efficiency of the ANS is improved and a state of coherence is achieved reached, hormones are better regulated and overall brain functions, memory consolidation, and mental performance improve.
In short, Brain Mechanics delivers real, quantifiable Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) performance upgrades using proven ANS Optimization science.