12 Effects of Chronic Stress on Your Brain

Aging Well, Health and Medical, Stress Management Add comments

 

Article adapted:
Thank you to Deane Alban at Be Brain Fit for this information.
See link at bottom for full article, filling in more information under 12 Ways.

 

 

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, but organizing your life around well-being and less stress is truly a formula for freedom you want to strive for and nurture daily.

TWO KINDS OF STRESS

There are two main kinds of stress – acute stress and chronic stress – and not all stress is bad for you.

Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

Once the threat has passed, your levels of stress hormones return to normal with no long-lasting effects.

Some degree of acute stress is even considered desirable as it primes your brain for peak performance.

CHRONIC STRESS KILLS

But chronic stress – the kind most of us face day in, day out – is a killer.

97% of doctors’ visits are for stress-related health complaints.

Chronic stress makes you more vulnerable to everything from cancer to the common cold.
– weight gain
– mood swings
– poor sleep
– short attention span
– and memory issues
are common signs of stress due to elevated cortisol.

But most of these effects of stress on your brain are “behind the scenes.” You don’t notice they’re happening but you will notice the side effects … eventually.

12 Ways Chronic Stress Impacts Your Brain Health and Mental Well-Being

1. Stress creates free radicals that kill brain cells.

2. Chronic stress makes you forgetful and emotional.

3. Stress creates a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety.

4. Stress halts the production of new brain cells.

5. Stress depletes critical brain chemicals causing depression.

6. Stress puts you at greater risk for mental illnesses of all kinds.

7. Stress makes you stupid. Stress can cause your brain to seize up at the worst possible times – exams, job interviews, and public speaking come to mind.

8. Chronic stress shrinks your brain.

9. Stress lets toxins into your brain.

10. Chronic stress increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

11. Stress causes brain cells to commit suicide.

12. Chronic stress contributes to brain inflammation and depression.

It’s generally believed that depression is caused by serotonin deficiency, but there’s a growing body of evidence that brain inflammation is the root cause of depression instead. It’s also associated with anxiety, memory loss, and inability to concentrate, as well as some serious disorders including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

On Top of All This …
Chronic stress destroys your happiness and peace of mind. It wears you down mentally and emotionally, and saps the joy from life.

Some side effects of stress that impact your mental well-being include:
– excessive worry and fear
– anger and frustration
– impatience with self and others
– mood swings, crying spells or suicidal thoughts
– insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
– trouble concentrating and learning new information
– racing thoughts, nervousness
– forgetfulness, mental confusion
– difficulty in making decisions
– feeling overwhelmed
– irritability and overreaction to petty annoyances
– excessive defensiveness or suspicion
– increased smoking, alcohol, drug use, gambling or impulse buying

It’s no fun experiencing these stress symptoms. It’s no picnic for those around you either.

WHAT TO DO?

7 Simple Steps to Help a Chronically Stressed Brain
1.  Stop free radical damage by eating a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate, and green tea.
2.  Increase levels of brain-boosting BDNF by getting daily physical exercise. It doesn’t have to be strenuous. Walking is excellent. So are exercises with strong mind-body orientations like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.
3.  Start a daily meditation practice. Meditation not only reduces stress, it’s a proven way to keep your brain young by keeping telomeres long. Meditation is also the best tool for learning how to master your thoughts. Stress does not come from events in your life as much as it comes from your thoughts – your automatic negative reactions and cognitive distortions – about these events.
4.  Try one of the many mind-body relaxation techniques such as self-hypnosis, biofeedback, or autogenic training.
5.  Look into taking an adaptogenic herbal remedy. Adaptogens increase your resilience to stress while supporting overall health. They promote balance between feeling energetic and feeling calm. Examples of adaptogens include ginseng, holy basil, Arctic root, and bacopa.
6.  Have a healthy support group. Talk to friends who are supportive often to release looping stress thoughts and emotions.
7.  Choose to let go of and get out of thinking, situations, relationships and experiences that cause you stress. You have control over these. Your brain health and well-being depend on you to take charge.

Chronic stress may seem to be an unavoidable part of life, but these proactive steps will definitely reduce its wear and tear on your brain.

**Read the full article and more information at Be Brain Fit.

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