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How Does Stress Affect Your Mental Health?

Most of us feel stress at some point in our lives. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found as many as 80% of men and women reported feeling stressed out sometimes or frequently during the daily grind.

Today, stress levels are higher than ever. All that stress takes a major toll on physical health, and it can cause some major problems with your mental health, too. At Wellness Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee, we help our patients relieve stress naturally, so they can improve both their physical health and their emotional well-being. 

Understanding the stress response

Stress may feel uncomfortable, but it’s actually an important part of your body’s physiology. Small doses of stress help us react to threatening situations through a “fight-or-flight” response that releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we feel stress, our heartbeat increases, our muscles tense up, and we have greater mental focus — all primitive reactions geared to help us decide if we need to take flight or stay put and deal with the stressful situation. 

These hormones act in other ways, too, slowing the digestive process and interfering with normal immune system responses. In essence, the stress reaction slows down the systems it deems nonessential during a stress reaction, conserving energy the body may need to protect itself. The hormones also act on your brain, including the areas of the brain that control your mood.

The flight-or-flight response is a temporary reaction that resolves once the threat goes away. But in chronic stress, those hormonal responses go on and on, and so do the physical reactions associated with stress. Over time, chronic stress can wind up affecting just about every system in the body, including the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and the digestive system. And it can take a big toll on your mental health.

How chronic stress affects mental health

Your brain is designed to handle limited increases in stress hormones as part of that fight-or-flight response. But now imagine soaking your brain in those chemicals for a prolonged period of time — which is kind of what happens in chronic stress. Now, instead of reacting in a short-term way to a limited increase in stress hormones, your brain must process those chemicals on a near-continual basis. Not surprisingly, that can have some pretty serious effects on your mental health. 

Moreover, when our brains are exposed to excess stress over and over again, we become “sensitized” to it, and that means we’re more likely to overreact to stressful situations in the future. It also means our reactions to stress become more or less automatic and much more difficult to counteract and control. Over time, that pattern of chronic stress reactions puts us at a much higher risk for anxiety disorder and major depression.

Anxiety and depression often occur together, feeding off each other in a cycle that can be difficult to break on your own. When anxiety is chronic, it’s called anxiety disorder, and it causes an unnatural heightened reaction to even small stresses. Anxiety disorder also results in a persistent state of worry or fear, which in itself can trigger a stress reaction.

As anxiety deepens, we may have difficulty sleeping — and that lack of sleep can make all our other stress-related symptoms a lot worse. Not only is our body unable to repair itself during deep sleep, but we wind up losing our ability to manage our emotions and deal with even tiny stressors that crop up throughout the day.

NAD therapy: Manage unhealthy levels of stress

At Wellness Nashville, we help patients manage stress with NAD therapy. NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, a naturally-occurring substance that can help us battle stress reactions. Unfortunately, NAD levels drop as we get older, and other factors, like poor diet, illness, toxic exposures, and inflammation can also cause levels to decline. That means we’re more prone to stress and its effects.

NAD therapy restores NAD to normal levels, optimizing cellular function while helping to minimize stress and its negative effects. NAD therapy is performed in our office, and there’s no downtime, making it easy to fit your therapy into your schedule. The first step is to schedule a no-cost consultation to determine if NAD therapy is right for you. To schedule your consultation, call us today at 615-334-0167 or use our booking tool to schedule your visit online.

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