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Stress has a major influence on the overall health of the body. Knowing how it works and what causes it to release its death grip can help save your life. The body wasn't meant to suffer through pain and anxiety due to being stressed. Learn how to use that stress in a positive way to ward off negative side effects.

The Great Courses
1 Season, 24 Episodes
September 3, 2010
Documentary & Biography
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Stress and Your Body Full Episode Guide

  • Exercise. Meditation. Social support. Religious beliefs. In this concluding lecture, learn how these and other outlets can potentially help you manage life's everyday stressors: both biologically and psychologically. Regardless of how many stressors you deal with daily, all of us, according to Professor Sapolsky, have the potential to keep them in perspective.

  • Before learning tips to manage chronic stress, it's essential to understand why certain individuals cope better with stress: both physically and mentally: than others. Discover that the key lies in grasping predictors of successful aging, including a position of respect, a resilient personality, a healthy lifestyle, and a realistic approach to life's challenges.

  • How strong a role does socioeconomic status play in what stressors you're exposed to, as well as your potential for chronic stress? It's a provocative question whose answer Professor Sapolsky reveals in this penetrating look at the characteristics and effects of psychosocial stress on both primates and humans.

  • Anxiety disorders, feelings of intense hostility, a decreased capacity for pleasure, and a repressed or addictive persona are just a few of the many distinct effects that chronic stress can have on an individual's personality and behavior. The ways these psychological disorders emerge are the subject of this fascinating lecture.

  • To truly understand clinical depression, you need to grasp its psychological aspects as well. In the second lecture on stress and this prevalent disease, explore the pivotal role stress hormones play in depression. Then, use your newfound knowledge of stress to knit together the psychological and biological models of depression.

  • Turn to the realm of mental health with this close look at the ties between stress and major depression: one of the leading causes of disability in the world. Start with an overview of the disorder's symptoms before delving into the particulars of its neurochemistry and neuroanatomy.

  • Conclude your look at ways to modulate the stress response by looking at two subtler variables: your control over the stressor, and your interpretation of whether the stress is getting better or worse. You also see why, despite being enormously powerful, these variables can work only within certain parameters.

  • Why are some stressors more unbearable than others? This lecture introduces you to three powerful psychological factors that work to modulate the stress response: having an outlet, taking advantage of social support, and having predictive information about when and how long a stressor will occur.

  • As you age, your ability to deal with stress decreases. What's more: Lots of stress throughout your lifetime can accelerate aspects of aging. Here, examine a series of intriguing experiments and studies that explain the science behind these two views about the intersection between stress and aging.

  • In addition to affecting the hippocampus, stress can prove harmful to the frontal cortex as well: the seat of behavioral regulation. As in previous lectures, discover what happens to this essential part of the brain when it comes under attack from chronic stress.

  • Memory: whether implicit or explicit: is an essential part of everyday life. So it's all the more important to understand how it's affected by stress. This lecture explains the science behind how short-term stress enhances memory and learning, while chronic stress may actually work to kill neurons in the hippocampus.

  • Stress and pain have an intriguing relationship: Stress can increase your sensitivity and resistance to pain, while pain constitutes its own particular stressor. Explore this fascinating bidirectional relationship, and expand your knowledge of how both balanced and stressed minds and bodies react to all varieties of pain.

  • Can an increase in stress actually cause cancer? Can it cause a relapse among patients in remission, or speed up the rate of a cancer's progression? Professor Sapolsky offers his insights on these and other controversial questions and myths about the possible links between stress and cancer.

  • Turn now to the relationship between stress and your immune system. After mastering the basics of how this system works, delve into how frequent stressors can result in flare-ups of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, can increase your vulnerability to infections like the common cold and herpes viruses, and more.

  • Get an insightful overview of the multifaceted effects of stress on the female reproductive system. Some of the topics you explore are the intricate relationships between stress and fertilization, ovulation, spontaneous miscarriages, high-tech in vitro fertilization, and the strength of the libido.

  • The first of two lectures on stress and child development takes you inside prenatal and postnatal life. Using two extraordinary examples, Professor Sapolsky reveals the ways a fetus can respond to the environmental stressors of its mother, and how different parenting styles can affect the stress levels of young children.

  • Focus now on the role stress plays in our gastrointestinal tracts. Why do most of us eat more during stressful periods? How does stress affect bowel disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and spastic colons? And how does stress combine with a bacterial infection to produce a common stress-related disease: ulcers?

  • The next organ system you focus on: the metabolic system. Discover how cycles of chronic stress lead to a persistent activating and storing of energy, which in turn can lead to an inefficient use of energy and play a critical role in the prevalence of adult-onset diabetes.

  • Armed with the necessary background information, explore how specific organ systems suffer when faced with chronic stress. In the first of a series of lectures on this subject, learn how long-term stress can damage heart muscles, inflame and clog blood vessels, and even lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

  • Every time you have a thought or emotion, things change in your body. Here, explore the two factors responsible for these changes: the nervous system and hormones. Learn how these systems work, how they're regulated, and: most important: what happens to them during moments of stress.

  • In Professor Sapolsky's introductory lecture, get a behind-the-scenes look at the science of stress and preview the groundwork for the course ahead. What exactly happens to our bodies when we come under stress? And how is our response to stress different from that of a zebra being hunted along a savannah?

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