The science behind stress

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

Ever felt like a boiling pot, the steam pressure building up, threatening to spill over?

That’s what stress felt like to me on most days.

For a while, I thought I could get better by avoiding stressful situations. Everyone talks about understanding your “triggers” and avoiding them.

But, it didn’t work. It seemed like everything was a trigger. The “experts” were wrong once again…

Well, it turns out they were only half wrong. They were all focused on external “triggers”, but I found the secret to getting rid of stress and anxiety by focusing on my biological triggers.

What Causes Stress Response

First, let’s talk about what causes your body’s stress response.

Stress isn’t just a mental overload. It’s a complex response to external pressures – a combination of chemicals and receptors that release in our brains to signal potential threats.

Your brain is wired to handle stress in two main ways:

  • The Hypothalamus, which sends out alarm signals to the body.
  • The Prefrontal Cortex, which helps put brakes on the stress response once the threat has passed.

If your Prefrontal Cortex doesn’t intervene effectively, you’re left feeling consistently overwhelmed, even by minor triggers.

Imagine a car with a gas pedal but faulty brakes. That’s the constant stress experience for many.

But why does this imbalance happen? This is where genetics come into play.

My Genetic Discovery

When I started looking at my DNA, 2 specific genes stood out to me.

The NR3C1 gene was the first game-changing discovery.

This gene is a pivotal player in our stress response. It influences the cortisol receptors in our brain and cortisol is the primary “stress hormone.”

Carrying a specific variant in this gene, as I do, can make one’s cortisol receptors hypersensitive.

This means even the smallest stressor could start a huge reaction, making one feel like they’re facing a life-threatening situation when they’re merely handling a work deadline.

This gene is so impactful in your stress response that it can cause chronic fatigue – so much stress over something small will make you feel tired.

I discovered that L-carnitine helped counteract my negative variant.

You can discover your personalized recommendations by analyzing your DNA through SelfDecode and reading this article.

The GRM8 gene was the second game changer.

This is one of the genes associated with glutamate, which is the brain’s main messenger to help nerve cells communicate.

Too much glutamate can lead to increased stress.

The solution, based on my genes, was L-theanine. It took me a while to figure it out. But here it is on SelfDecode, confirming my research!

Following my health strategy

I’ve been writing this series to give you an inside look at how I tackled my mental health problems by using my genetics.

My journey to solving stress really mirrors my road to getting rid of anxiety and, as you’ll see in my next article, it also mirrors how I tackled my low mood.

This is because the foundation of my strategy stays the same – whether you’re solving mental health problems, inflammation issues, gut problems, or any other health topic:

Genetics is the key to getting to the root cause of any issue.

By analyzing your DNA, you can get personalized diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations that will help you reach your health goals.


About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen flipped the script on conventional and alternative medicine…and it worked. Growing up, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, insomnia, anxiety, and other issues that were poorly understood in traditional healthcare. Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a learning journey to decode his DNA and track his biomarkers in search of better health. Through this personalized approach, he discovered his genetic weaknesses and was able to optimize his health 10X better than he ever thought was possible. Based on his own health success, he went on to found SelfDecode, the world’s first direct-to-consumer DNA analyzer & precision health tool that utilizes AI-driven polygenic risk scoring to produce accurate insights and health recommendations. Today, SelfDecode has helped over 100,000 people understand how to get healthier using their DNA and labs.
Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, with a mission of empowering people to take advantage of the precision health revolution and uncover insights from their DNA and biomarkers so that we can all feel great all of the time.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(No Ratings Yet)

FDA Compliance

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles View All