New research suggests the way we cope with stress could be determined by our brain chemistry.
I am not someone who is particularly good at handling stress. I’ll always get my work done, and I probably won’t let my stress show on the surface, but underneath, my brain can often fall into jumble of worries and anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly better than some (I’ll often only get stressed about the things I really care about), but I’m definitely not the best, either.
So, when I meet one of those lucky people who strolls through life like it’s a walk in the park, all I want to know is how they do it. Have they discovered some miraculous healing ritual? Do they spend thousands of pounds on a super-exclusive life coach to get them through every day? Do they sleep?
It’s an answer that has always eluded me – at least until now, that is. Because thanks to new research, I’ve discovered their secret isn’t anything expensive or mysterious – it’s just their biology.
A team of scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have identified a receptor on the surface of the brain which plays a key role in how we respond to stress – meaning that our biology could determine how often we get stressed out.
Looking closely at the S1PR3 receptor (which scientists previously knew very little about), the team conducted a study into the resilience of stress in rats, which they later investigated in humans.
After putting the rats in a range of situations, the scientists found that rats who had higher levels of the S1PR3 protein where more resilient to stress, meaning they were more likely to use coping strategies and actively tackle the situation. Rats with lower levels of the protein were more likely to cope passively and respond to the situations with anxiety.
While the scientists still have more research to do before they can confirm these initial findings, the discovery could allow doctors to identify people who are more at risk of stress-related disorders – and the more research into our mental health, the better.
Of course, there are ways we can learn to cope better with stress. Whether we decide to cut unnecessary stressors from our life or put in place an effective self-care routine to ensure we have time to relax, it’s important to keep tabs on how we’re doing.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is a normal part of life – in fact, some stress can actually be good for us – but if you know that you find it particularly hard to cope with a lot of stress, take some time out to reassess everything you’re taking on, and perhaps give yourself a much-needed break.
Image: Getty / Lead image design: Alessia Armenise