How Stress Shrinks Your Brain
Dr. Mitchell says, “When we think of stress, we often think of the physical effects it has on our bodies an increased heart rate, tightening of the chest, and shortness of breath. But did you know that stress can also shrink your brain? Research has shown that chronic stress can lead to the shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning. In fact, studies have shown that people who experience chronic stress have a smaller hippocampus than those who don’t. Stress can also cause changes in other parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and self-control. So not only does stress make it harder to remember things and make good decisions, but it also literally shrinks your brain. So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and relax your brain will thank you for it!”
Effects Of Stress: You May Have A Higher Depression Risk
Stressful life events, both acute and chronic, may cause a series of psychological and physiological changes in the brain that increases your risk of depression, according to a 2015 meta-analysis published in Current Neuropharmacology. Why? Stress targets the amygdala, the part of your brain that deals with emotions, which may be one reason why you often feel an increase in sadness and angertwo signs of depressionwhen youre super stressed, Dr. Merrill says. In addition, they found indications in their study that stress can cause changes in your white matter, which may explain why stress is a known factor in triggering and worsening mental illnesses including depression, suicide, and PTSD, Dr. Chetty adds.
, which provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.)
Save Your Brain Simple Ways To De
While stress is bound to happen at some point during your life, there are many ways to help alleviate it, including:
- Being physically active at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week
- Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Drinking enough water
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Getting proper sleep
Although it may not be the biggest organ in our body, the brain is certainly the most important. It plays the center role in our daily thoughts and activities. Preserving it is crucial to living a happy and fulfilling life.
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How To Prevent Brain Damage From Work Stress
Your work health is essential for long-term mental and physical viability and the trajectory of your career. If you toil in an toxic work culture, its important to weigh your options and find a workplace that prides itself on employee-centered empathy and care. These work cultures are increasing as a result of the pandemic and The Great Resignation and employee demands for positive change. Even if you work in a healthy environment, chronic stress doesnt give your body a chance to return to its natural resting state. The key is to have a stress care plan to offset any potential stress damage so you can reset your brain and keep it healthy. Here are 10 science-backed steps you can take to prevent brain damage from chronic job stress and thrive at work:
How Stress And Anxiety Affect The Brain
If youve ever been pulled over by the police or have had to give a speech in front of a large crowd, youre probably familiar with stress and anxiety in some form or another. These emotions can trigger not only a mental response but a physical one too. While some level of stress and anxiety is actually normal and healthy, these feelings in excess can severely impact a persons daily life not to mention their health.
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Stress Creates Free Radicals That Kill Brain Cells
Cortisol creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate.
While glutamate is a necessary and important brain chemical, in excess it turns against the brain and becomes a neurotoxin.
Glutamate creates free radicals unattached oxygen molecules that attack brain cells in much the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust.
Free radicals actually punch holes in brain cell walls, causing them to rupture and die.
Persistent stress also indirectly contributes to other lifestyle habits that create more free radicals.
If stress causes you to lose sleep, eat junk food, drink too much alcohol, or smoke cigarettes to cope, know that these unhealthy habits are adding to your free radical load.
Relax Your Muscles With A Body Scan
Progressive muscular relaxation can help you notice where youre holding stress. It doesnt take long and its simple to do: Lie down comfortably on your back with your legs straight. Close your eyes. Start by tensing muscles in your feet, then relax. Work your way up your body doing the same thing in sequence from your feet to your head. Often its only by experiencing muscle tension and letting it go that we become aware of just how much tension our bodies are retaining.
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The Positive Side Of The Stress
Stress is not always a terrible thing. We need stress to grow. Stress also sharpens the mind, improves our mental skills such as the ability to remember.
We particularly use it in a formal education setting. The workload on creche students increases as they move to higher classes. As the workload increases, so also is the mind developed.
However, the most common effects of stress are negative.
Mood Cognition And Behaviour
It is well established that chronic stress can lead to depression, which is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It is also a recurrent condition people who have experienced depression are at risk for future bouts of depression, particularly under stress.
There are many reasons for this, and they can be linked to changes in the brain. The reduced hippocampus that a persistent exposure to stress hormones and ongoing inflammation can cause is more commonly seen in depressed patients than in healthy people.
Chronic stress ultimately also changes the chemicals in the brain which modulate cognition and mood, including serotonin. Serotonin is important for mood regulation and wellbeing. In fact, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to restore the functional activity of serotonin in the brain in people with depression.
Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption is a common feature in many psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, play a key modulatory role in sleep. Elevated cortisol levels can therefore interfere with our sleep. The restoration of sleep patterns and circadian rhythms may therefore provide a treatment approach for these conditions.
Depression can have huge consequences. Our own work has demonstrated that depression impairs cognition in both non-emotional domains, such as planning and problem-solving, and emotional and social areas, such as creating attentional bias to negative information.
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Effects Of Stress On The Body
Chronic stress doesnt just lead to impaired cognitive function. It can also lead to other significant problems, such as increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Other systems of the body stop working properly too, including the digestive, excretory and reproductive structures. Toxic stress can impair the bodys immune system and exacerbate any already existing illnesses.
Life Course And The Epigenetics Of Individual Differences
Gene-environment interactions are key to how the brain develops and changes with experience, and epigenetics now refers to the important role of the social and physical environment in shaping the brain and body over the lifecourse.68 Mechanistically, epigenetics refers to events above the genome that regulate expression of genetic information without altering the DNA sequence. Besides the CpG methylation described above, other mechanisms include histone modifications that repress or activate chromatin unfolding69 and the actions of non-coding RNA’s,70 as well as transposons and retrotransposons71 and RNA editing.72 Much of what is described earlier in this review involves epigenetic mechanisms at a cellular and molecular level. Now we turn to a more integrative view of epigenetics in the animal and human world that lead to trajectories of experience-dependent adaptation or maladaptation, which then will lead to a discussion of possible interventions.
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Leading Causes Of Stress
Stress occurs for a number of reasons. The 2015 Stress in America survey reported that money and work were the top two sources of stress for adults in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Other common contributors included family responsibilities, personal health concerns, health problems affecting the family and the economy.
The study found that women consistently struggle with more stress than men. Millennials and Generation Xers deal with more stress than baby boomers. And those who face discrimination based on characteristics such as race, disability status or LGBT identification struggle with more stress than their counterparts who do not regularly encounter such societal biases.
Stress Increases The Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease And Other Age
Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, “It’s not an exaggeration to say that stress can shrink your brain. Stress increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related degenerative diseases. A recent study found that people who reported feeling more stressed had smaller hippocampus an area of the brain important for memory and learning. In fact, the shrinkage was equivalent to one to two years of hippocampal aging. So why does stress shrink your brain? When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol a hormone that helps you cope with stressful situations. Cortisol is essential in small doses, but too much of it can be harmful. High levels of cortisol have been linked to shrinkage of the hippocampus as well as other areas of the brain. Stress also causes inflammation, which can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive decline. Fortunately, there are things you can do to manage stress and protect your brain health. Exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature are all excellent ways to reduce stress. So if you want to keep your mind sharp as you age, make sure to manage your stress levels.” And to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
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How Chronic Work Stress Damages Your Brain And 10 Things You Can Do
Chronic work stress can damage your brain, but there are steps you can take to mitigate this harm.
As the workplace headed into 2022the third year of the pandemicthe incidence of job stress and burnout jumped to an all-time high. The American Psychological Associations Work and Well-Being study found that 79% of the 1,501 employees surveyed experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Three in five workers said work-related stress caused them to have a lack of interest, motivation and energy at work. Plus, 36% had cognitive weariness, 32% emotional exhaustion, and 44% physical fatiguea 38% jump from 2019.
Work stress shows up from our jobs in numerous ways. That sinking feeling before a presentation to colleagues or struggling with an impossible deadline. The negative chatter circling in our heads like a school of sharks. Workjerkery, pressures and demands from upper management. Or lately being forced back into the office after feeling productive working from home during the pandemic. According to a Future Forum Pulse survey, work stress is at an all-time high, and work-life balance is at an all-time low. In April of this year, work-related stress hit its highest level since surveys began in the summer of 2020 as more workers are pulled back into full-time office positions after pandemic quarantines. These statistics are alarming because chronic work stress can cause brain damage.
Stress Increases Levels Of Cortisol A Hormone That Is Toxic To The Brain
Dr. Mitchell reminds us, “Stress can take a toll on your body and your mind. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that’s designed to help you deal with stressful situations. In small doses, cortisol is beneficial. It can help you to focus and to be alert. However, when cortisol levels are constantly high, it can be toxic to the brain. High levels of cortisol have been linked to memory problems, anxiety, and depression. So why does stress increase levels of cortisol? It’s believed that cortisol helps to prepare the body for “fight or flight.” When you’re stressed, your body is essentially getting ready for an emergency. Your heart rate increases, adrenaline is released, and blood is diverted away from non-essential functions like digestion. This response is helpful if you’re in real danger, but it’s not so helpful if you’re just trying to get through a busy day at work. Over time, constant exposure to stress can lead to high levels of cortisol in the body, which can be damaging to the brain. If you’re dealing with a lot of stress in your life, it’s important to find ways to manage it. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and counseling can all help to reduce stress levels.”6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
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Adrenal Steroid Receptors In Hippocampus
Glucocorticoids produce effects in the brain both genomically and non-genomically via multiple sites and pathways, and they have biphasic effects in which the timing and the level of glucocorticoid response expression are critical.25,26 Glucocorticoid actions via the genome involve both direct interactions with GR elements and indirect actions via tethering to other transcription factors.27 Glucocorticoids also directly stimulate release of excitatory amino acids via membrane-associated receptors and they indirectly regulate both glutamate and GABA release via their ability to induce local synthesis of endocannabinoids.28 Glucocorticoids also translocate GR to mitochondria where they promote Ca++ sequestration and regulate mitochondrial gene expression these effects are biphasic and high glucocorticoid levels cause a failure of this mechanism and lead to increase free-radical formation.29
The level of expression of glucocorticoid receptors is very important. Genetically induced overexpression of GR in forebrain leads to increased ability of mood-related behaviors and yet also confers greater responsiveness to antidepressant drugs.30 Genetically induced underexpression of GR has the opposite effect.31 Likewise the increased CpG methylation within the GR promotor is associated with a sluggish HPA stress response and is associated with poor maternal care in rodents and early life abuse in human suicide victims.32,33
How To Prevent Stress From Shrinking Your Brain
Dr. Mitchell explains, “Stress is a common experience that can have negative consequences on our brain health. When we feel stressed, our body releases hormones like cortisol which can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Over time, chronic stress can lead to a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, and this shrinkage has been linked to problems with memory, concentration, and mood. Thankfully, there are things we can do to prevent stress from damaging our brains. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress levels, and it also helps to protect the hippocampus from shrinkage. Additionally, spending time with friends and family can help to reduce stress, as can relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing. By taking steps to reduce our stress levels, we can help to protect our brains from shrinkage.”
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Stress Kills Brain Cells
In a study conducted by researchers from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, researchers discovered that a single socially-stress event could kill new neurons in the brain’s hippocampus.
The hippocampus is one of the regions of the brain heavily associated with memory, emotion, and learning. It is also one of the two areas of the brain where neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, occurs throughout life.
In experiments, the research team placed young rats in a cage with two older rats for a period of 20 minutes. The young rat was then subjected to aggression from the more mature residents of the cage. Later examination of the young rats found that they had cortisol levels up to six times higher than that of rats who had not experienced a stressful social encounter.
Further examination revealed that while the young rats placed under stress had generated the same number of new neurons as those who had not experienced the stress, there was a marked reduction in the number of nerve cells a week later.
While stress does not appear to influence the formation of new neurons, it does impact whether or not those cells survive.
So stress can kill brain cells, but is there anything that can be done to minimize the damaging impact of stress?
Ways Stress Affects Your Brain
The brain is a fascinating and complex organ. Its the primary control center for our whole body, and it can be affected by stress in many different ways. Stress itself is an important part of life it helps us prepare for danger or respond to emergencies. But when were constantly stressed out, thats when our brain starts to pay the price. This blog post will explore how stress affects your brain, both positively and negatively, so you can develop strategies to reduce your brains vulnerability to its harmful effects.
For starters, it is important to understand how our body processes stress. In the simplest terms, stress is basically the fight or flight response to a perceived threat. This activates the amygdala, or fear center of the brain, and causes a cascade of events. These include the production of the stress hormone cortisol, an increase in glucose levels, increased heart rate, and an increase in blood flow to the muscles in the arms and legs. After the threat has passed, then the body will eventually return to normal.
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