Do you feel restless, finding it hard to sleep? Are you irritated by almost everything, letting your emotions lose all the time, forgetting little things, and getting disorganized? You are most likely just stressed out.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, just like in a competitive situation. For example, when you are playing a sport.
It only becomes a problem when it is continuous like the kind most of us face day in and day out.
You have probably heard all about how bad stress is for your mind and body. It can lead to physical symptoms like headaches and body pain. It can result in mood problems such as anxiety or sadness. It can even lead to behavioral problems like outbursts of anger and overreacting. What you may not know is that it can have a huge impact on your brain too.
Chronic stress, like being overworked or the kind caused by regular arguments at home can affect brain size, structure, and function right down to the level of your genes. Let’s dive into its effects;
1. Stress increases the chances of Mental illness:
Chronic stress creates more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal. This results in the production of excess myelin in certain areas of the brain, risking interference with the timing and balance of communication. It also affects the brain’s hippocampus which plays an important role in the formation of new memories. When the hippocampus is affected, illnesses like amnesia are set to attack.
2. Stress can cause your brain to shrink:
When you are stressed, your brain produces a hormone called cortisol and too much of this can cause your brain to shrink in size. There will be the prevalence of loss of synaptic connections between neurons, killing off brain cells, and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex.
3. Stress can make concentration difficult:
Due to excess production of cortisol during stressful times, your prefrontal cortex will shrink. This is the part of the brain that regulates behaviors like concentration, decision making, judgment, and social interaction. Not only will it be difficult to focus on a novel, but you may also find it hard to make critical decisions and interact with people.
The domino effect caused by the high amount of cortisol is a very long chain. The frequent memory loss, uncontrolled anger, and need to avoid socialization are just a few of the many repercussions of overworking oneself.
Well, it’s not all bad news. There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your brain. Some of these are exercise and meditation which involves breathing deeply and being aware of your surroundings; external and internal. These activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus in your brain.
Any time you feel stressed, take the time to relax and meditate or have a warm bubble bath. All work and no play or rest truly, makes jack a dull boy.