Stress is unavoidable. Some stress is even good for you– eustress (good stress) is what motivates you and makes you feel fulfilled. Distress, on the other hand, can be incredibly damaging.
You may have heard what too much stress can do to your blood pressure, your heart and your metabolism. But have you heard what it can do to your brain?
The gray matter in your brain can literally shrink under chronic distress, according to a Yale study. The reduction of gray matter can lead to problems in communication, memory, learning, thinking, experiencing emotions and even in exhibiting self-control.
The Brain Mind Institute found that stress can cause chemical changes that affect your mood, promoting depression, irritability and anger. Stress triggers enzymes that reduce neural connections. Loss of those connections can make you less social and less understanding of others.
You probably know that too much stress over time is no good, but it’s important to also understand that single incidents that cause great distress can also be damaging, according to Scientific American. Extreme situations of stress can kill brain cells, and other studies show high-stress incidents may stop your brain from producing new neurons.
De-stress Your Mind
Worried? Don’t be. For a healthy mind and body, stress reduction and management are as important as things like diet and exercise.
According to research at Harvard, there is something you do to combat, or even reverse, some of the damaging effects that stress has had on your brain. Practices like meditation and mindfulness over time increase gray matter and boost brain activity. With today’s stressful lifestyle, it’s good to know that all is not lost.