Feeling Stressed? It Could Be Your Genes
Stress is an inevitable part of life—and according to DNA research, how you handle it depends on your genetics.
Studies on the genetics of stress have been going on for several decades, and researchers have identified a few different genes that affect how you deal with stress. One of the best-researched ones is ADRA2B—a gene that influences how your brain responds to short-term stressors.
Here’s a look at how different ADRA2B variants affect your stress response, as well as what you can do to improve your stress tolerance, depending on your genetics.
ADRA2B Makes You Feel Stress More Intensely
ADRA2B stands for alpha-2B adrenergic receptor. It’s a gene that influences how intensely your brain responds to adrenaline and noradrenaline—two of the main brain chemicals involved in your stress response.
When you get stressed, your brain is flooded with adrenaline and noradrenaline. They bind to receptors in your brain cells, stimulating your stress response—faster heartbeat, muscle tension, and so on. Your ADRA2B gene determines the sensitivity of those receptors in your brain.
The most common version of ADRA2B leads to a normal stress response. If you have a standard ADRA2B variant and you’re confronted with a moderately stressful situation, you’re likely to feel it, but not to the point that it overwhelms you and shuts your brain down.
But according to recent research, a partially deleted ADRA2B variant can cause you to feel stress more acutely. A study of 207 people found that people with an ADRA2B deletion variant were significantly more affected by moderate stress. They perceived stressful situations more intensely and focused more afterward on the negative aspects of what happened.
ADRA2B, Stress, and Memory
Have you ever felt your mind go blank during a stressful moment? A common example might be stepping up to a podium to give a speech and forgetting everything you were going to say.
Research suggests that your ADRA2B gene could be the cause. In response to stress, people with certain versions of ADRA2B are more likely to switch from “cognitive” memory—flexible, free-thinking, able to reason through situations in real time—to “habit” memory—rigid thinking patterns that rely on previously practiced behavior.
If you have to perform under pressure on a regular basis, it’s good to know which ADRA2B variant you have. If you have the variant that shifts you to habit memory, you may want to plan out and practice your behavior ahead of a stressful event. That way, when you’re under pressure and your mind goes blank, you’ll have a familiar, already-learned response to fall back on.
If you have another version of ADRA2B, you’re more likely to stay cognitively flexible in response to stress. You can probably wing it in a high-pressure situation and come out the other side okay.
Either way, it’s good to know your genetics ahead of time. That way you don’t, for example, show up for a speech on the big day and discover your brain isn’t working.
Understand Your Genes to Handle Stress Better
ADRA2B is one of over a dozen genes that influence your stress and behavior. Here are a few examples:
DRD2 affects your likelihood to binge eat for comfort in response to stress.
COMT moderates how much work-related stress you can handle without taking a break.
5HTTLPR influences your odds of becoming depressed or anxious when you’re stressed out.
Reading this, it can feel like your behavior is out of your hands. But keep in mind that everyone has genetic strengths and weaknesses. The key is understanding your unique DNA and how it influences your behavior. That way you can make the most of your natural strengths and become aware of (and better manage) your blind spots.
That’s where our DNA 360 Report comes in. We test your DNA and give you concise, easy-to-understand information about your genes. Our test covers major areas of your life and performance: mood and behavior, optimal nutrition, sleep, longevity, exercise, and more.
Not only that, but you’ll get personalized supplement and behavior recommendations for your unique genes, so you can create a lifestyle tailored to your unique strengths and weaknesses.
If you want to become a better version of yourself, we can help. Order a DNA 360 Report today and start understanding yourself better.
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