Stressed Out? Here’s Why

No, it’s not just the sight of armed pseudo-vigilantes at town hall meetings, or the apparently futile task of  “bending the cost curve” on health care that’s got you feeling stressed to the gills these days. New scientific research argues that we’re just . . . messed up, that’s all. Key quotes:

Unfortunately, the dynamism of our stress response makes it vulnerable to disruption, especially when the system is treated too roughly and not according to instructions. In most animals, a serious threat provokes a serious activation of the stimulatory, sympathetic, “fight or flight” side of the stress response. But when the danger has passed, the calming parasympathetic circuitry tamps everything back down to baseline flickering.

In humans, though, the brain can think too much, extracting phantom threats from every staff meeting or high school dance, and over time the constant hyperactivation of the stress response can unbalance the entire feedback loop. Reactions that are desirable in limited, targeted quantities become hazardous in promiscuous excess. You need a spike in blood pressure if you’re going to run, to speedily deliver oxygen to your muscles. But chronically elevated blood pressure is a source of multiple medical miseries.

So….what do we do? Meditation? More TV? For more insight into our hyped-up species, go here.

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