Anxiety and Stress

Art & Research: Eunice H. Kim

Further Reading Literature: Eunice H. Kim

Let’s talk about anxiety! 


Stress is our response to daily pressures or threats (CITE). Anxiety is the reaction to stress. However, there is no clear cause and it may last for a longer period of time (Premier Health).

The brain

Your brain has many parts that work together to help you talk, move, feel happy and sad and, you guessed it, SCARED!

The amygdala

The amygdala is the part of the brain that allows you to feel scared or threatened. When you feel threatened, the amygdala tells the control center of the brain, the hypothalamus (Harvard Health). The hypothalamus, in turn, makes a part of your body called the adrenal glands produce epinephrine (Harvard Health)

Fight or flight

Epinephrine or Adrenalin is a chemical that allows you to fight the threat or run away from the threat. We call this the “fight or flight” reaction.

The HPA Axis

While you are facing the threat, your hypothalamus also activates a network system called the HPA axis (Harvard Health). This refers to a communication network of 3 parts: the Hypothalamus, Pituitary gland and adrenal gland (Harvard Health). When the message finally reaches the adrenal glands, the adrenal glands produce another chemical called cortisol (Harvard Health). Cortisol allows your body to continue to fight or run away (Harvard Health).

Cortisol & regulation

Cortisol is also sent to a part of our brain called the hippocampus (Harvard Health). Normally, as cortisol levels fall, the hippocampus stops the HPA axis from sending any more messages (Harvard Health). However, continuous exposure to cortisol can weaken the hippocampus and lead to chronic stress and anxiety disorders (Harvard Health).

Other organs during the stress response

Similar to your stomach, heart and lungs, your brain is also an organ! This means that your brain is also prone to getting hurt just like any other part of your body. 

Taking care of the mind

Just like you wouldn’t force yourself to eat more when your stomach hurts, be gentle and take care of your brain as well! 

Want to learn more about this topic? Need help coping with anxiety and/or other mental illness?

Check out the additional resources below!