April is Stress Awareness Month. As someone with a mental illness, I was interested in finding out if my peers and I were likely to be affected differently by stress than those without a mental illness. Some of what I learned was quite unexpected!
It is a widely-accepted fact that chronic stress negatively affects one’s physical and mental health. In response to daily strains that come from everyday responsibilities, as well as larger stressors such as the loss of a job or a loved one, your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.
In addition to increasing your risk of illnesses such as heart disease and high blood pressure, most of the medical community agrees that frequent reactions to stress without countering the effects can cause emotional and behavioral problems. The major stress hormone is cortisol and is released by the adrenal glands. Chronic stress causes these glands to release too much on a daily basis. This can affect the brain negatively which, in certain individuals, can cause depression and other mental illnesses.
Recent research has shown that chronic stress can cause shrinkage of the hippocampus. This can lead to problems with memory and emotional regulation. Fortunately, the hippocampus can recover: it can regenerate upon recovery from mental illness. This is why we believe here at Shore House in a holistic approach to wellness. We not only believe in the restorative properties of work, but also in full healing of body, mind and spirit.
Scott L. Schofield & Sherone Rogers
Blog posts are written by Shore House members and staff.