Feelings of irritability, moodiness, forgetfulness, and isolation – what do they all have in common? Chronic stress. It seems like stress has become such a common trait of our human lives. NPR conducted a national poll with the help from associates at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health and found that “more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they had a great deal of stress in the previous month. And half of all adults say they experienced a major stressful event in the past year. That works out to more than 115 million people.” What happens to our minds and bodies when we stress? What is it exactly that makes us stressed? From NPR’s conducted research they found that people claimed illness, death of a loved one and problems at work as the top three stressors in their life.
Though there are moments when stress could actually be a good thing for people, providing positive bursts of energy and focus during stressful yet enjoyable instants like during a sports match or a public speech. Continuous stress has dramatic and negative changes on your brain affecting not only how your brain functions, but its size and structure as well! According to an educational TED X video, stress begins with the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal Axis. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis) is a multifaceted set of direct influences and interactions among three endocrine glands: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands (which are located right above our kidneys). When these organs interact they form the HPA axis – a major part of the brain that controls reactions to stress. The HPA axis releases Cortisol hormones as a response to stress that readies your body for action.
As college students, we are all way too familiar with this word. I know every time I catch a random cold, or suffer from chronic headaches the first thing my doctor asks me is, “Have you been feeling stressed lately? Or “What has been stressing you lately?” How am I supposed to know?! Going to UCLA is stressful enough, but add that t work, family life, friend drama and everything else that goes into a student’s life... the stressors can start to add up and consume you entirely. Stress is associated with many mental and physical health issues such as; heart disease, anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes, asthma and even Alzheimer’s disease. So it is important that we pinpoint what it is exactly in our lives that cause our bodies to stress. This way, if we know what stresses us exactly, instead of simply guessing what we believe our mind is stressing about, we might be able to prevent some if not all of the associated health problems that occur due to stress. That is why I have designed B.R.E.A.T.H.E rings! Wearing the ring around your finger will allow the band to read your Cortisol levels through sweat. Once your Cortisol is being released from the HPA axis your band will automatically light up blue to signify that your brain is stressing out to something. This will help students, parents, dedicated workers, and so forth pinpoint what in their lives is actually causing them to stress! The ring will be connected to a cloud that can give them further reading into their heart rate and other hormone levels. There will be an app that will have questionnaires and surveys participants can fill out after their ring lights up if lets say for example, there aren’t any external factors that could have been stressing the participant out.
The rings are designed to be ‘powered’ the same way a “shaking flashlight” is powered. Inside the band of the ring a magnet will pass back and forth through a coil of wire and creates an electrical current in a capacitor whenever you move your hand – this electricity will power the ring “on” and activate the Cortisol/Sweat sensor embedded into the ring. I am still looking into the kinds of magnets I want to use so that they last a while and buyers won’t have to worry about replacing the magnets often.
de Kloet, E. Ron, Marian Joëls, and Florian Holsboer. "Stress And The Brain: From Adaptation To Disease". Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6.6 (2005): 463-475. Web.
"How Stress Affects Your Brain - Madhumita Murgia". TED-Ed. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 May 2016.
Roth, Kevin A., Ivan M. Mefford, and Jack D. Barchas. "Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Dopamine And Serotonin: Differential Effects Of Acute And Chronic Stress On Regional Brain Amines". Brain Research 239.2 (1982): 417-424. Web.
Selye, Hans. Stress In Health And Disease. Boston: Butterworths, 1976. Print.
Sorenson, R. D. "Stress Management In Education: Warning Signs And Coping Mechanisms". Management in Education 21.3 (2007): 10-13. Web.
"Stressed Out: Americans Tell Us About Stress In Their Lives". NPR.org. N.p., 2014. Web. 3 May 2016.
Image 1: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/07/07/327322187/stressed-out-americans-tell-us-about-stress-in-their-lives
Image 2: www.relatably.com
Image 3: www.shake-flashlights.com