Stress Can Alter Our Cognitive Functions
Long-term stress can impact how we feel, how we react to things, and even how we think.
Long-term stress can alter the nervous system, and stress hormones can decrease how well our brain cells function in the areas responsible for long-term memory creation and attention.
As a result, people with long-term stress may experience confusion, poor memory, have difficulty concentrating, or have trouble learning new information.
However, we know the brain can change over time. If youve dealt with long-term stress, there are ways you can start to recover.
Mental Health In The Workplace Webinar
On May 19, 2022, Verywell Mind hosted a virtual Mental Health in the Workplace webinar, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW. If you missed it, check out this recap to learn ways to foster supportive work environments and helpful strategies to improve your well-being on the job.
Make Time For Leisure Activities
Leisure activities can be a wonderful way to relieve stress. Yet, many people feel as though their lives are too busy for hobbies, games, or extra fun.
But building time for leisure into your schedule could be key to helping you feel your best. And when you feel better, youâll perform better, which means leisure time may make your work time more efficient.
Whether you find joy in caring for a garden or you like making quilts, hobbies and leisure are key to living your best life.
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Who Is Affected By Stress
All of us can probably recognise some of the feelings described above. Some people seem to be more affected by stress than others. For some people, getting out of the door on time each morning can be a very stressful experience, whereas others may be less affected with a great deal of pressure.
Some people are more likely to experience stressful situations than others. For example:
- people with a lot of debt or financial insecurity are more likely to be stressed about money
- people from minority ethnic groups or who are LGBTQIA+ are more likely to be stressed about prejudice or discrimination
- people with disabilities or long-term health conditions are more likely to be stressed about their health or about stigma associated with their condition.
Can My Doctor Help
You can speak to your GP if you are struggling to cope with stress. Struggling to cope with stress may include the following.
- You are struggling to do everyday things.
- You have stopped looking after yourself.
- You are taking more time of work.
- You have thought that life is not worth living.
- You are using drugs or alcohol to cope with how you feel.
- You have felt very low or hopeless for 2 weeks or more.
- You no longer enjoy anything.
- You are having panic attacks.
It may help you to write down a list of the main points and questions that you want to discuss with your GP. This can be helpful if you are feeling anxious or worried.
If you have kept a stress diary you could take this with you. See the previous section for more information about a stress diary.
Your GP could offer:
- support groups in your area.
You can find more information about:
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Recognising Your Stress Triggers
If you’re not sure what’s causing your stress, keep a diary and make a note of stressful episodes for two-to-four weeks. Then review it to spot the triggers.
Things you might want to write down include:
- the date, time and place of a stressful episode
- what you were doing
- a stress rating
You can use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
How Stress Affects Your Health
Stress can be brief, situational and a positive force motivating performance, but if experienced over an extended period of time it can become chronic stress, which negatively impacts health and well-being.
How stress affects your health.
: Weve all felt it. Sometimes stress can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well at your piano recital or job interview. But oftenlike when youre stuck in trafficits a negative force. If you experience stress over a prolonged period of time, it could become chronicunless you take action.
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Make Time For Yourself
In our busy lives, its easy to forget to make time for ourselves. But self-care is essential for managing stress.
Set aside some time each day even if its just 15 minutes to do something you enjoy. Whether its reading a book, taking a bath, or going for a walk, this time should be free from distractions and obligations.
Making time for yourself will help you recharge and feel more capable of dealing with stressors.
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Stressed Or Depressed Know The Difference
If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, you are not alone it’s practically a fact of life on college campuses. A poll conducted by mtvU and the Associated Press in the spring of 2009 reported that 85% of students say they experience stress on a daily basis.
Stress is good if it motivates you but it’s bad if it wears you down. Many factors can contribute to the stress you experience, and this stress can cause changes in your body that affect your overall physical, mental, and emotional health.
Depression is more serious and long-lasting than stress, and requires a different kind of help. In a 2010 survey by the American College Health Association, 28% of college students reported feeling so depressed at some point they had trouble functioning, and 8% sought treatment for depression.
The good news is that depression is a highly treatable condition. However, it’s not something you can snap out of by yourself, so it’s important to get help. How do you tell the difference between stress and depression? Both can affect you in similar ways, but there are key differences. Symptoms of depression can be much more intense. They last at least two weeks. Depression causes powerful mood changes, such as painful sadness and despair. You may feel exhausted and unable to act.
Here are common signs of stress and depression. Which fits you best?
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How Much Stress Is Too Much
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, its important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is too much differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with lifes punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, lifes pressures dont seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, its easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your lifethat youre at the mercy of your environment and circumstancesstress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If youre generally hopeful and optimistic, youll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
How Does Stress Affect Mental Health
Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Research has shown that when stress occurs, neurotransmitters are released.
From this, stress hormones are released, which affect areas of the brain for regulating emotions. Repetition of this process affects how well these systems can cope.
Being unable to cope with the feeling of overwhelm may cause mental health problems or make existing problems worse. You may find that coping with your day-to-day symptoms of a mental health problem is exacerbated by stress, which only adds more stress!
Some emotional and behavioural symptoms of stress overlap with symptoms of depression and anxiety. So, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two and know which came first.
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When To Seek Professional Help
Seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Appetite changes that result in unwanted weight changes
- Struggling to get out of bed in the morning because of mood
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you usually find enjoyable
- Inability to perform usual daily functions and responsibilities
Dont wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider, who can refer you to a mental health specialist if needed. If you dont know where to start, read the National Institute of Mental Health Tips for Talking With a Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health. Learn more about how to get help or find a provider on the NIMHs Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
Breathing And Relaxation Exercises
Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress. The playlist below will help you to understand how stress works and start feeling better. These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed in general, as well as helping you feel calmer if you are becoming stressed.
This playlist is free to download, and you can also stream it using the Soundcloud website or app. You can download and listen to individual tracks if there are particular exercises that work best for you. If you’re listening to it for the first time, it’s best to start from the beginning.
To access a BSL version of this playlist, .
Find out more by checking out these 10 stress busters.
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Managing Stress In Daily Life
Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it isn’t addressed. It’s important to recognise the symptoms of stress early. Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.
There is little you can do to prevent stress, but there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting good time-management techniques.
Studies have found that mindfulness courses, where participants are taught simple meditations across a series of weeks, can also help to reduce stress and improve mood.
Weathering The Storm: How To Cultivate A Productive Mindset
This workshop is for people and farm families who want to know more about managing farm-related stress and how to access resources. Learn how to:
- Increase awareness of rural stress issues and warning signs of stress challenges.
- Explore key stress issues and communicate about steps in managing stress.
- Discover and apply useful coping methods for responding to stress and improving wellness.
- Identify and access available resources and sources of support.
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How Can I Prevent Stress
Its not always possible to prevent stress altogether life can be stressful. If you remember that some stress can be positive and motivating, you can aim to find the right balance between productive stress and an unhelpful level of stress.
Making sure you have time to relax each day will also help prevent a build-up of tension in your body and your mind.
Daily exercise can have many benefits for your overall health and wellbeing, including reducing stress. Something as simple as going for a walk or taking part in a team sport can also improve your mental health and help prevent you from feeling stressed.
Spend time learning what triggers your stress and try to understand why this is. Structured problem solving is another form of psychological therapy that can help prevent your stress from escalating as you identify ways to solve the problems that trigger it.
Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
Stress is a familiar and common part of daily life. Stress happens each and every day and comes in a wide variety of forms. It might be the stress of trying to juggle family, work, and school commitments. It might involve issues like health, money, and relationships.
In each instance where we face a potential threat, our minds and bodies go into action, mobilizing to either deal with the issues or avoid the problem .
You have probably heard all about how bad stress is for your mind and body. It can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and chest pain. It can produce mood problems such as anxiety or sadness. It can even lead to behavioral problems such as outbursts of anger or overeating.
What you might not know is that stress can also have a serious impact on your brain. In the face of stress, your brain goes through a series of reactionssome good and some baddesigned to mobilize and protect itself from potential threats. Sometimes stress can help sharpen the mind and improve the ability to remember details about what is happening.
Stress can have negative effects on the body and brain. Research has found that stress can produce a wide range of negative effects on the brain ranging from contributing to mental illness to actually shrinking the volume of the brain.
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Job Loss And Unemployment Stress
Losing a job is one of lifes most stressful experiences. Its normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve for all that youve lost, or feel anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once, which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many steps you can take to come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient, and with a renewed sense of purpose.
Helping Children And Youth Cope With Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic eventlike a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.
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Stress And Your Health
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.
Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health.
Cognitive Problems Caused By Stress
Stress can alter the nervous system, causing changes in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, attentiveness, and problem-solving. Someone who is under chronic stress may have difficulty concentrating and learning new information. People trying to cope with an onslaught of stress may also struggle with confusion and indecisiveness. The effects of stress on our ability to think and interact with others isnt meant to be taken lightly, which is why proper stress management is so important.
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What Makes Us Stressed
Many things that can lead to stress: bereavement, divorce or separation, losing a job or unexpected money problems. Work-related stress can also have a negative impact on your mental health. People affected by work-related stress lose an average of 24 days of work due to ill health.
Even positive life changes, such as moving to a bigger house, gaining a job promotion or going on holiday can be sources of stress. If you feel stressed in these situations you may struggle to understand why or be unwilling to share your feelings with others.
How To Reduce My Stress
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In todays society, stress and change often are thought of as the same thing. Stress is a physiological and psychological response to situations the body and mind find to be overwhelming. We often ask ourselves how we should manage stress. There are many ways people manage stress and reduce the overall stress of day-to-day activities. With the fast pace of work and home, and being constantly inundated with technology and still wanting to have time to connect with those around us, our lives can feel overwhelming and stressful at times.
Manage how you live with these five tips to feel less stressed:
1. Use guided meditation.
Guided meditation is a great way to distract yourself from the stress of day-to-day life. There are many guided meditations available on the internet that can help you find 5 minutes of centered relaxation.
2. Practice deep breathing.
Deep breathing is a great way to reduce the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, which controls the bodys response to a perceived threat. Deep breaths taken in to a count of five seconds, held for two seconds and released to a count of five seconds, can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps reduce the overall stress and anxiety you may be experiencing.
3. Maintain physical exercise and good nutrition.
4. Manage social media time.
5. Connect with others.
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