Tina: Okay, so what do I have to do today?
There's that paper I have to submit.
Have I heard back from the funding application I sent last week?
Wait, have I eaten today?
Why is it so spooky outside?
Okay, I have to submit the paper.
I need to respond to my students email- I need to set up a meeting with Jessie— I need to find funding— I wonder how Chadwigs doing— Why hasn't he called me?
Did I remember to pay that credit card?
I really hope no one schedules a meeting with me today because it's definitely a camera's off kinda today.
WILL, YOU PLEASE SHUT UP!
Why am I so stressed?
It's because my body is trying really hard to keep me alive whenever I encounter things that might be dangerous.
Scientists call these stressors.
And these can be in our immediate environment like seeing a bear or nearly getting run over by a car.
But they can also be abstract threats like a looming deadline.
Our body is so primed to identify and avoid stressors that it sometimes makes a mountain of molehill, and it can happen in an instant.
Stressors disrupt your body's normal functions.
Every second of the day, your body is trying to keep all of your biological systems perfectly stable and at all the right internal settings.
To do this, your body is continuously balancing levels of hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
However, these default settings are thrown completely out of the window when we get stressed.
When we get upset over an ominous email, or when we worry about how we're going to pay the bills, that sensation of stress is because our body is sending some settings way up and others way down.
These changes are all thanks to two systems: the fast-SAM response and the slow-HPA.
The fast response comes from our sympathetic adrenal medullary system, aka our SAM system.
When we're under short term stress, our hypothalamus the area of our brains usually responsible for keeping our body setting stable, sends hormones activating our autonomic nervous system.
The nervous system sends a message all the way down to the center of your adrenal glands, activating the adrenal medulla.
The adrenal medulla then emits a bunch of norepinephrine and epinephrine, hormones that quickly circulate throughout your body.
In response to these hormones, your body increases its blood pressure, heart rate, muscle blood flow, energy consumption, and more.
What does this all mean?
Well, it means that when you encounter stress, you should immediately feel more alert; have increased attention; increased cognition; and increased physical capacity.
While SAM works fast, the second system is slightly slower.
This is the hypothalamic* pituitary adrenal or HPA system.
When a stressor is identified, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary gland.
The pituitary then releases a hormone that targets a different part of your adrenal gland.
You may have heard of cortisol, you can think of it as your body's alarm system and its main stress hormone.
It increases your blood sugar, suppresses the immune system, and it helps in breaking down fat, protein and carbohydrates to mobilize energy.
When it comes down to it, cortisol and the other hormones released by the HPA during stress spread across the body to conserve and maintain energy supplies.
These two systems affect our entire body, from our cardiovascular and respiratory systems to our gastrointestinal, nervous and muscular systems.
When we get stressed, they all feel it.
This response to stress is basically our body preparing a coordinated effort to tackle whatever is stressing us out.
We need to talk?!
Where's my laptop?
Where's my charger?
I swear if one more thing goes wrong, I'm going to lose it!
Clearly, stress can be bad coping mechanism or a maladaptive response.
But the vast majority of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects have stress hormones: plants get stressed, even bacteria have a stress response.
Everything is just really stressed out, okay!
So why did evolution keep around such a negative reaction?
Could stress have been an evolutionary adaptation at some point?
Some evolutionary biologists frame stress as a state of arousal opposite to rest.
In that sense, the ability to switch between being passive and actively responding to our environment has been around since complex life.
But looking a little closer on the evolutionary branch at humans specifically, our stress response would have been activated by any of the dangers that our ancestors faced.
Many of those dangers would have been acute and physical.
So the ability to focus physical and mental resources on the stressor at hand may have often paid off.
Putting it more simply, we evolved a stress response that prepares your body to fight our stressors, or sprint away from them.
But this leads to a little bit of an evolutionary mismatch because today we face a lot of stressors that can't be addressed with fisticuffs, or fast footwork.
Although, in fairness, I've never tried punching out my student loans.
Why am I— okay, Tina, you're freaking out.
Maybe I need to stress nap?
No, you can't you have a meeting soon.
Okay, get up and breathe and say some affirmations.
I don't know any affirmations!
What would Beyonce say?
You won't break my soul.
You won't break my soul.
Let me calm down and order some food.
I would like to order a hamburger.
Okay, I can do this Chef: Ayy, Why Am I Like This Grill Tina: Hello I'm a hamburger!
*inconsolable* Whoa, whoa whoa, calm down.
calm down, Sweetie.
Let's take a deep breath.
Now tell me was going on.
Tina: *CRYING* I have a paper deadline on Friday.
And I need to check in with my students.
My boss called and said goal is a we needed to talk.
And then my laptop diiiiieeeeeeddddd Chef: Oh ho oof listen, listen.
Ey, don't let that get you down.
Don't let that get you down.
It's— you're gonna be just fine.
It's okay to be upset.
I get it.
Of course I do.
I mean, just last week, my house almost burned down.
And then yesterday, I almost got kidnapped.
But then they let me go.
They just stole my car.
They didn't steal me.
I was about to cry like you are right now.
But then I remember my morning affirmations, my deep breathing.
And as you can see, everything is just fine.
Tina: So clearly, some people are more sensitive to stress than others.
Since people don't have exactly the same DNA, there can be some differences in genes that affect the production of stress hormones and the receptors that they bind to.
For example, the COMP gene has been shown to impact stress reactivity.
This gene [protein] helps break down the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine.
More calm can mean that you can get rid of your stress hormones and your stress response more quickly.
And research shows that people with different variations of this gene react to stress in different ways.
Beyond genes, our stress response today is a direct result of how much stress we've experienced in our life.
We now know that people who've had stressful life events in their past, especially during childhood can have significant changes to their lifelong cortisol levels.
In brief, this can lead people with stressful childhoods to be more sensitive to stressful stimuli later in life.
But this isn't set in stone research shows that it is possible to alter our response to stress with various approaches from lifestyle changes to medication and therapy.
And in some cases, if you face your stressor directly, you might find that it wasn't as scary as you expected.
Unknown: Hey, Tina, you doing okay?
Tina: Oh, no, I'm good.
I had something to eat.
And I'm fine.
Boss: Well, thanks for meeting on such short notice.
Hope I didn't scare you with that text.
I've actually got some great news.
You got the research funds you applied for!
Tina: Oh my god, this is awesome!
I was so stressed about this.
We should definitely go and celebrate with the lab!
Boss: How about Friday?
I'll see you tomorrow.
Boss: Oh Tina, real quick.
How's that research paper coming?
Tina: Clearly stress can be a bad coping meechan- wait.
Sorry, Chef: Where's my fat back.
You seen my fat back?
It's somewhere I'm looking for my fat back.
It's somewhere up here Naw, that ain't my fat back.
Oh my gahd.
She broke the Rubix cube!
*laughs* Oh my gahd!
*laughs* Chef: So what they call me here, how I'mknown in the streets is it's the Lebron James of chefs, right?