MUST READ MENTAL HEALTH

Stress Responses: Polyvagal Perspective

Feb 02, 2023

Stress is a natural response to challenging situations and it can have a significant impact on our mental health and behaviour. The nervous system plays a critical role in our stress response, and there are several different stress responses that occur within the nervous system. In this blog post, we will explore the different stress responses in the nervous system and their role in mental health and behavior.


The first stress response is the sympathetic nervous system response, also known as the "fight or flight" response. This response is activated when we perceive a threat or challenge. The sympathetic nervous system releases a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepares the body to take action. This response is characterized by increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles, as well as heightened alertness and focus. The fight or flight response is an adaptive response that helps us to respond quickly and effectively to danger.


The second stress response is the parasympathetic nervous system response, also known as the "rest and digest" response. This response is activated when the threat or challenge has passed, and the body is able to relax and return to a state of balance. The parasympathetic nervous system releases hormones that slow down heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to the muscles, and promote relaxation and rest. This response is critical for maintaining overall health and well-being, as it allows the body to recover and repair after a stressor.


The third stress response is the HPA axis response, which is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response. This response is activated when the body is under chronic stress. The HPA axis releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone that helps the body to cope with long-term stress. However, when the HPA axis is activated too often, it can lead to chronic release of cortisol, which can have negative effects on mental health and behavior. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental health issues.


In conclusion, the nervous system plays a critical role in our stress response. The sympathetic nervous system response, also known as the fight or flight response, is activated when we perceive a threat or challenge. The parasympathetic nervous system response, also known as the rest and digest response, is activated when the threat or challenge has passed. The HPA axis response is activated when the body is under chronic stress. When these stress responses are functioning properly, they help us to cope with stress and maintain overall health and well-being. However, when these stress responses are activated too often, it can lead to negative effects on mental health and behavior. It's important to be aware of our stress response and learn how to manage it.