The biological dysfunction caused by stress and some expedients to come on top of it
Stress is an inevitable component of everyday life. It comes in all forms and can affect anyone, no matter their age or financial situation. Everyone has experienced a feeling of being overwhelmed with too much to handle at some point in their life.
Stress can be a positive thing, it can bring challenges to the table and force the brain to find solutions. Behaving anxiously, increasing perspiration, rising blood pressure, accelerated breathing are common manifestations of stress.
Stress becomes negative when it puts our physical or mental health at risk. Raising blood pressure damages your arteries, including the brain, and increases the chance of stroke or heart attack. It can affect the lining of our digestive tract, through the development of painful sores (called peptic ulcers), or by increasing and making it hard to control the sugar level in blood which paves the way to type two diabetes.
Emotional or physiological stress, which is often disguised as anxiety or depression, is real as it generates chemical reactions in our body. Our adrenal glands, which sit above the kidney, release chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals alert the nervous systems to potential risk and communicate to the rest of the body on how to respond to threatening circumstances.
The first chemicals the body produces are catecholamines, which are divided into epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
Cortisol is another critical hormone. It intervenes to rescue the body during extended time of stressful circumstances such as famine, cold, or infections. For our ancestors, stress occurred when there was a threat of not having enough food. They hunted and gathered for hours if not days before shovelling whatever was edible (or moving) down their gullet.
So, in anticipation of starvation or famine, cortisol would be released into the bloodstream and break down these muscles we work so hard at the gym to build. Through this catabolic (breaking down muscles and body tissues) process, the body fights to stay alive when starving. In the world we live in, or at the least the western one, where supermarkets are open all day if not all night, how to survive in winter is probably not on top of your to-do list or what keeps you up at night.
When your toddler is having a tantrum at the grocery store and everyone stares at you, or you are running late for a meeting with your boss, or your new iPad-Pro just crashed and you lost the document you have been working on all morning, the chances are that your stress hormones’ level would go through the roof.
There is a variety of solutions out there to minimise if not resolve stress. Exercising is probably one of best ways to do it. But not every sport or physical activity works for everyone. The wrong one could actually add extra stress into the equation. A walk around the block can be beneficial, but doing it until you collapse may not be the best way of taking care of your body.
According to some researchers, people of different blood types have unique capabilities for accommodating stress: the type of stress hormones produced, the way they react to unexpected situations and the way they eliminate extra chemicals to re-establish homeostasis or balance once the challenging situation is over.
For instance, individuals with type A blood benefit from attending calming activities such as tai chi, yoga or pilates. They are the most stress sensitive of the four-blood type group. They release stress hormones quickly even for minor stressful situations, and clear them just as quickly.
On the other side of the spectrum, 0 types feel better after hitting the squash court or engaging in intense and strenuous exercise. They don’t stress easily but when they do, they overproduce catecholamines like adrenaline and they find it harder to expel them.
There are few studies to confirm these assumptions. However, as someone with type O blood, I don’t find attending tai chi or yoga classes works for me as much as short and intense activities.
B and AB types are very much in between A types and 0 types. Like A types, B types produce high levels of cortisol and clear the extra stress hormones quickly. They benefit more from activities which are not aerobically intense, which involves other people and have a mental element such as tennis, golf and cycling. AB types tend to overproduce adrenaline like 0 type's but have similarities with A and B types in their ability to quickly absorb extra stress hormones. The optimal balance is obtained by combining or alternating some calming activities including yoga with some more intense physical exercise like cycling and running.