Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Science Of Stress

Scientists have known for many decades that the brain has a system to calm the body (the parasympathetic system) and a system to activate the body or get it ready to deal with a specific stress or fear (the sympathetic nervous system). The sympathetic system, when stimulated, is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, a primitive state that gets us ready to fight or flee when we are threatened or scared.

This “hard-wired response” happens with overt physical threats (such as being approached by a vicious dog) and also with more covert, internal, emotional threats (such as a self-esteem injury or worry about the future). The heart beats faster, muscles tense, hands sweat to cool the body, breathing rate and blood pressure increase, the hands and feet become cooler to shunt blood from the extremities to the big muscles (to fight or run away), and the pupils dilate (to see better). This response to stress is powerful and immediate.

This documentary is an investigation into the damaging affects of stress where foremost experts in fields stretching from psychology to cardiovascular science unravel the secrets of the greatest scourge of modern times. The film follows a fictional couple over the course of 24 hours as they confront the stresses of the 21st Century.

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