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Coping With Stress. Interview with a Psychiatrist. Podcast Episode 9


We all know that too much stress is bad for you. But is all stress created equally? And what can we do to have more of the “good stress” and less of the “bad stress”.

Dr Orlena Kerek talks to Dr Marianne Van Den Broek, psychiatrist and leadership coach to find out all about how to manage the stress in our lives.

Coping with Stress Podcast


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What is Stress?

Stress is the activation of our sympathetic nervous system when our body perceives danger. Such as being chased by a lion!

Our flight, fight or freeze reaction kicks in. Our heart starts to pound (beat faster and with more force), our blood pressure goes up and our pupils dilate.

This is a “physiological” response triggered by the hormone adrenaline. (That’s the same hormone you get injected with when you have a heart attack or an anaphylactic shock. It’s strong stuff.)

The adrenaline surges around our body helping us to run away for the lion. Or tiger. Or bear.

Our hypothalamus also triggers us to release cortisol. Another powerful hormone. (Cortisol is a steroid hormone so when we use powerful steroid drugs we creating a similar affect.)

The hypothalamus switches off our thinking brain and activates our more primitive brain.

If you know anyone who is on long term high dose steroids you’ll know that there are lots of side affects such as weight gain and being more susceptible to infection.

Your Action Brain Is Triggered During the Stress Response

Your body’s entire focus is to survive and run away from the lion, tiger or toddler that is threatening your life.

It is not focused on sleeping, relaxing or even pleasure seeking activities.

Just staying alive for now!

Is Stress Good for You or Bad for You?

Some stress can be good for you to keep you focused.

People who see stress as useful are less likely to die at a young age.

Types of Bad Stress

  1. Constant, unpredictable and having no control over it. (e.g. toddlers throwing tantrums!)
  2. Personality. Some people are highly reactive and aren’t great at adjusting to stress.
  3. Reactivating Stress. Going over and reliving the stress.

How Can We Deal with A Stressful Situation?

You need to shut down your sympathetic nervous system (the running away system) and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (“the life is back to normal and relaxing system”).

Good tips:

  1. Deep slow breathing. From your belly. This can take some effort.
  2. Singing. Loud cheerful singing.
  3. The “6 Second Hug” that triggers oxytocin “the love hormone”.

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Why Is Too Much Stress Bad for You?

When your sympathetic “running away” system is active, the rest of your bodily “maintenance” functions are put on hold.

For example, blood is diverted from your digestive system to your muscles so you can run away. Which means digestion is put on hold.

When you stop the “running away” and return to activating your parasymathetic nervous system you body returns to normal.

  • Blood pressure goes down
  • Heart slows down.
  • Glucose metabolism goes back to normal.
  • Liver starts to detoxify again.
  • Cortisol levels go down.
  • Fertility organs go back to normal.
  • Digestive system starts working again.

Consequences of Long Term Stress

We often don’t see these mechanisms going on under the surface but what we will notice is:

  • Weight gain
  • Fertility problems
  • Stress on our heart (which we’ll see as heart disease)
  • Stress on our glucose metabolism (type 2 diabetes)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • More susceptible to infection (due to high cortisol)

What Can we Do to Reduce the Harmful Affects of Chronic Stress?

  1. Support from friends.
  2. Mindfulness and meditation, yoga and love.
  3. Emotions. Feel emotions without allowing them to control us.
  4. Exercise and Staying Fit.

Dr Marianne Van Den Broek

Marianne is a psychiatrist and leadership coach. She works with ambitious women who want to lead in their business and field, who know that what got them there won’t take them to the next level.

Find out more at: Marianne Van Den Broek

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Written by Dr Orlena Kerek

Dr Orlena is a medical doctor turned health coach. She helps busy mums go from "I can't lose weight" to feeling fit and fabulous. Find out more about her here.


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