Nowadays, it seems as though people are more stressed than ever before, with chronic stress playing a frequent and negative role in our daily lives. Stress has a profound psychological effect on the entire body, including the brain. In fact, even low levels of stress can cause significant changes in the brain over time. Here’s a closer look at the negative effects of stress.
It Shrinks Your Brain
When you’re under stress, do you ever feel as though your brain just isn’t functioning as it should? Or that you’ve lost some of your “smarts”? This may be why. When under stress, the volume of the brain can shrink, leading to impaired cognition and decreased emotional function.
Luckily, your brain isn’t doomed! When stress is lowered/removed, hormone levels in the brain return to normal and brain volume rebounds to its normal size.
It Kills Brain Cells
When you were a kid, you probably learned in school that drugs kill brain cells. But, did you ever learn that stress can do the same thing? Well, it sure can! Here’s what happens. When your brain perceives stress, it signals one of two hormones into the bloodstream: adrenaline for mild stress situations or glucocorticoids (e.g., cortisol) for persistent or severe stress. Whether your brain signals adrenaline or glucocorticoids, both can kill cells in the brain’s hippocampus. When this happens, memory and learning are impaired.
It Depletes Brain Chemicals
Stress that is especially severe or recurs frequently (living with abuse, in combat, etc.), chemicals that carry messages from one nerve cell to another become depleted. This causes the brain to become sluggish and inefficient, leading to many problems, such as:
- Sleep disturbances
- Racing thoughts / Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty learning
- Difficulty making decisions
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
- Increased hostility, worry or guilt
Just as stress affects each person differently, it also causes different gender responses. For example, stress hormone receptors in women are less adaptive than in men. This makes women more likely to experience stress-related mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.
What To Do
There are many things one can do to help relieve stress (exercise, a hot bath, going to bed earlier). But, unfortunately, lessening stress is much easier said than done. If you’re looking for a way to keep your brain healthy and reduce/eliminate stress, one method that may help is hypnosis. To learn more about how hypnosis can help, click here, or contact us at 540.222.1715.
Author: Patience Itson