Just calm down…easier said than done, especially when chronic stress seizes your entire body.
The impact of stress on our emotional health is well documented, but what about our physical health? Stress doesn’t just exist in the mind—when a stressful situation arises, it can take over the body’s most basic functioning systems. The physical effects have largely been relegated to after-thoughts in cultural conversations around stress and mental health, but addressing the physical repercussions may actually hold the key to healing the mental and emotional conditions of stress.
Stress is not an inherently negative reaction in the body. Actually, it plays a vital role in our ability to recognize and respond to threats.But stress is not supposed to be a permanent state, and as more people are experiencing stress on a daily loop, their brains and bodies are paying a toll.
Thankfully, we can lift the burden of stress by taking a temporary timeout. Like hitting the reset button on a computer, our biological reboot gives the nervous system the chance to rest and then reset from a calmer and more balanced state. But, to fully appreciate the power of a nervous system reboot, we first have to recognize how exactly stress strains the entire body.
When stress becomes chronic
When confronted with potential danger the body’s sympathetic nervous system kicks into fight-or-flight mode. This response releases a wave of adrenaline that enables us to better fight off the threat, or escape from it. The heart pumps faster (and more efficiently) and the release of glucose and fats to supply additional energy.1 These physiological reactions make it possible for us to breathe in more oxygen, run faster, and process additional threats quickly. If danger persists, the system releases cortisol to keep the body running on high alert.
Once the threat dissipates, the sympathetic nervous system’s counterpart, the parasympathetic nervous system, is supposed to counter the fight-or-flight chain of events and calm the entire nervous system down to its rest-and-digest state. But when the parasympathetic system fails to respond, fight-or-flight mode becomes the body’s new normal.
The physical effects of stress
Living in a state of constant adrenaline turns your world into a field of landmines. No matter how mundane the circumstance or safe the environment is, your nervous system is on edge.
Sensitive startle response
Experiencing any of the above symptoms is the daily reality of living with chronic stress. While meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication may help, traditional treatments are not always adept at loosening stress’s grip on the body.
How stress changes the brain
There’s a reason why stress makes you feel distracted and foggy. Over time, chronic stress actually changes the composition of your brain. Studies indicate a sustained spike in cortisol can shrink the hippocampus region of the brain, which plays a crucial role in learning new information and recalling past information. The ability to focus may also be at the mercy of long-term stress, as deficiencies may develop in the prefrontal cortex which is linked to attention span.3
While the transformational effects of stress on the brain are real, they don’t have to be permanent. Treatments like ketamine counter the impact of stress by activating the brain’s ability to grow and form new neural connections—connections that are crucial to overcoming chronic stress.
Tools for living with stress
Here at Hudson Mind we believe that the only way to realistically curb the stress epidemic is by addressing the physical and mental effects of stress in equal measure.
Our BioReboot program is designed specifically to ease the physical weight of stress, rebalance the body’s autonomic nervous system, and catalyze new neural connections in the brain. The program administers three interventional treatments over the course of a 2-3 hour session: Dual Sympathetic Block, Ketamine IV, and Slow Wave parasympathetic toning.
First, the Dual Sympathetic Block is a minimally invasive anesthetic that resets the fight-or-flight system. Under ultrasound and light sedation, local anesthesia is used to block the fight or flight response in the neck. Now, with a nervous system that is no longer in a heightened or agitated state, we administer a ketamine IV to help the mind relax and disconnect from distressing thought patterns. This also helps to promote neuroplasticity and new neural connections. The program ends with a session in the Slow Wave chair, which administers pressurized waves that support the body’s parasympathetic system and ability to manage stress. Receiving all three treatments successively reboots the nervous system traces of stress in the body giving you the chance to reclaim balance and ease in your life.
We can’t stop the barrage of stress, but we can improve how we manage its impact. By giving your body the chance to reset from stress, you open opportunities for your mind to establish behavioral changes and new thought patterns that can support your stress response going forward.
- “Understanding the Stress Response.” Harvard Health, 6 July 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response.
- Kim HG, Cheon EJ, Bai DS, Lee YH, Koo BH. Stress and Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis and Review of the Literature. Psychiatry Investig. 2018 Mar;15(3):235-245. doi: 10.30773/pi.2017.08.17. Epub 2018 Feb 28. PMID: 29486547; PMCID: PMC5900369.
- Colino, Stacey. “How Stress Can Damage Your Brain and Body.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Sept. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2022/04/26/inner-workings-stress-how-it-affects-your-brain-body/.