real life

We are getting closer and closer to the reality of a stress vaccine.

It’s everywhere. We hear about it when we’re roaming the supermarket aisles, sitting in the doctor’s office, during every second phone conversation. We hear about stress. This time of year. Deadlines. Sleepless nights. We’re tried, we’re stressed, we run out of descriptive words.

Wouldn’t it be great to just turn it off? No more stress. (Though, I wonder what we’d talk about.)

We are getting closer and closer to the reality of a stress vaccine.

Research is underway at Columbia University in the US, where mice are being injected with immune cells to heighten their resilience against stress.

The same researchers are also studying the drug Ketamine, commonly used to treat depression, and the way it might be able to combat the physiological symptoms of high stress.

Different research, at Stanford University in the US, is exploring a way to stop the release of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) after it reaches a certain concentration level in the blood stream.

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Before you start thinking all your Christmas’s have come at once, don’t get too excited.

Stress is good for you.

Sure, cortisol is responsible for our shallow breathing and racing heart before a job interview, but it’s also responsible for propelling us out of the way of a moving truck before the brain has time to register what’s happening.

We need stress to live (and stay alive) but, for some, the dangerous and debilitating side effects of stress outweigh the positives. These are the people who would most benefit from a stress vaccine.


They might be physiologically wired to manage stress differently, often unsuccessfully. For example, there are different genetic mutations – more than a dozen have been identified – that can make someone more susceptible to the negative side effects of stress such as ulcers, high blood pressure, allergic reactions, addiction and long-term cognitive and mental health issues.

They might be people who’ve experienced extremely stressful life circumstances.

Think first responders to accidents, or soldiers returning from war, who are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

People with a family history of depression – a condition we know is triggered by stress.

People who were born to mothers living in extreme poverty, when we know prenatal exposure to stress is linked to ADHD, autism, schizophrenia and mental health problems.

A stress vaccine would help these people live a ‘normal’ life.

It wouldn’t solve all the problems before Christmas.

It wouldn’t necessarily change the way people interact or manage tasks.

But it would help calm the biology behind extreme, ongoing stress. To stop the physical response that can be at once so debilitating and overwhelming. To stop the waterfall of chemical reactions that can lead to a raft of health issues reaching far beyond the stressful situation at hand.

We’d still be able to talk about stress. But only for so long. And without the risk of becoming consumed by it.

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