This is my first semester here as a transfer student. On top of preparing for classes, adjusting to a new living situation, orientating myself to our large campus and settling into a teeming schedule of school and a new job - I have a naturally stressing personality. Needless to say, my first-day-of-school jitters were overwhelming. My high-strung feelings during that first week of school, coupled with an increased exposure to pathogens (and maybe not the most nutritious diet), nearly fatefully set me up to catch something. And veritably so, I caught the flu the second week in.
I almost laughed out loud reading this chapter (13) to the relatable synchronistic topic it addresses – stress and the effects it can have on our health. I have noticed, throughout my life, my lower tolerance to stress, or rather my excitable hormonal response to stressful situations. Flinn explains that we have no clear explanation linking parts of the brain that assess our social environment and our hormonal system that controls stress hormones (243). However, the chapter makes clear that our hormonal response to stress is heavily determined by our psychosocial experiences, particularly at younger ages. Though, our hormonal response may be beneficial in short-term situations, chronic stress with high cortisol levels may deplete cellular energy and immune reserves, leading to higher frequency of illness.
From an evolutionary perspective, it seems contradictory that an organism would suppress immune response in a chronically stressful situation when exposure to pathogens may be high. There are certainly many complex factors that must be taken into consideration to understand the evolutionary benefit of our hormonal response to stress, especially since each individuals experience is unique. This subject is quite interesting – something I would like to spend more effort understanding (a good 20% project).