Stress can affect our bodies in many different ways. When you feel like stress may be eating away at your mind, it turns out you may be right. Does stress shrink your brain? The truth is, sadly it does and we are going to talk about how our brains are affected and what we can do about it.
How does it hurt us
We already know that dealing with increased stress can increase the chance of us developing some chronic illnesses such as hypertension and heart disease but I am sure most of us didn’t think about the effects it could be having on our brains.
It has been already long established that stress-related illnesses like PTSD can trigger changes in the brain structure but researchers are now learning how chronic stress can cause long-lasting changes in the brain function.
Here are some ways chronic stress can affect your brain and mental health:
Stress shrinks your brain
Researchers at Yale discovered that chronic stress can reduce the amount of grey matter in the brain responsible for our self-control. If you have no self-control how can you control your stress? It affects the size of the frontal cortex which is responsible for decision making and this can also cause an increase in anxiety.
Too much cortisol levels can also shrink your hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for storing memories. Which leads us to the next one.
Forgetting where you left your keys lately? Stress can contribute to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and other problems that make performing a daily task more difficult. A study in 2014 from the University of Iowa showed that having elevated levels of cortisol can cause memory lapse the older we get.
Decreased brain cells
Stress releases cortisol, which on the one hand is important because it keeps your blood sugar and blood sugar levels elevated to help you escape danger but on the other hand, too much cortisol has been shown to kill brain cells. Without it, you can die but too much of it can cause consequences to your health.
Depletes needed chemicals which can lead to depression
Chronic stress lowers the levels of two important hormones, serotonin(which is responsible for our mood, appetite, learning, and sleep) and dopamine. When either of these hormones is low you are at risk for depression. Women, however, who have low levels of serotonin are prone to depression and binge eating.
What can we do
- Change your diet- The first step to a healthy body and mind is a plate full of foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants. By simply changing your foods you are helping your body fight stress and preventing plenty of illnesses. Here is a list of Fruits rich in vitamins to help reduce stress
- Exercise- Increase the amount of body and mind exercises you do every day can be useful in reducing the number of cortisol levels released. You can try a less strenuous exercise like walking or yoga can still get the needed benefits.
- Try Meditation- meditation is great training for your mind, it can help reduce stress and help you put negative thoughts under submission. Negative thoughts can increase anxiety so giving yourself a way to release those thoughts will lead to positive reactions throughout your day.
- Get Plenty of Sleep- I know you have heard this many times before, Sleep is one of the best things you do for your body, but it is the truth. Sleep is time for the body to repair itself and that includes your brain. But too much sleep can be bad for your brain so be sure to get the recommended amount of 7 to 9 hours or ask your doctor to make sure. Check out my review on the best essential oils to help you sleep here
Who would have thought that stress could affect your brain on top of your body? But it makes sense. We live in our minds and that has to take a toll on our poor brains. We need our brains to function and get through the day so taking care of them should be as important as eating.
Stress cannot be avoided but it isn’t always bad. We may not be able to avoid stress but we can change how we deal with it.
Rushing to get the kids ready for school in the morning may cause you to forget something and if you feel you get too stressed out, try to manage your task so you don’t have as much to do all at once. Prepare some of their lunches in the evening or if they are old enough have them help.
Being mom doesn’t mean you have to be a super mom, through that out the window. We are a family and we work together.
So, have you noticed any of these symptoms and think you may have been stressing too much? I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment or some feedback down below.