How Stress Affects the Brain

How Stress Affects the Brain

The human mind consists of memory, language, thought process, subconsciousness, and consciousness.  The mind controls how someone perceives a situation, as well as how the brain acts and reacts to external stimuli.  The brain and the mind are closely intertwined but entirely different systems.

The brain, which is the central physical organ of the body’s nervous system, has three main parts: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brainstem. When any of the five senses receive stimulation, the body gets the message.  People do not internalize stimuli one at a time, but as a combination of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch working in unison.

young man screaming maybe due to stressAny stimulus presented to the brain causes stress, which is how it responds to demand.  Most things felt, heard, or seen throughout the day causes no more reaction than the brain’s acknowledgment of the input.  

For example, the sound of a co-worker opening a desk drawer is audible, but the brain immediately dismisses this input because no action needed. A co-worker opening a desk drawer in your office, however, would create more stress if you did not give them prior permission.

All input creates stress, but anything that requires a significant amount of action affects the brain negatively, especially sustained levels of this type of pressure. In a stressful situation, the amygdala alerts other areas of the brain to the presence of a stressor.  

Because these other areas control bodily functions, the heart rate increases, lungs take in more oxygen, eyesight becomes more focused, and the brain releases a hormone called cortisol.  When the danger has passed, all systems level off to normal.

Effects of High Stress

During extended periods of high stress, cortisol levels remain high, which affects brain chemistry. Chemical imbalance prevents other parts of the brain from functioning optimally.  Memory suffers, exhaustion sets in, and emotions are uncontrollable; the brain sends signals to keep blood pressure and heart rate high and precipitates other harmful fight-or-flight responses.

When the body starts to feel the effects, health problems follow.  These create further stress, and it becomes a cycle that is hard to escape.  Age plays a factor; young people tend to be able to reduce stress easier than older people.  But uncontrolled levels at any age is a serious health issue and should be addressed before other bodily functions deteriorate.

See Also: 20 Best Foods to Eat to Lower Anxiety, Stress and Depression (And Foods to Avoid).

A balance of regulating chemicals and hormones allow each part of the brain to function normally.  When stress gets high, it is helpful to work with a doctor who can prescribe medications that level the chemicals in the brain.

Adequate sleep and a proper diet can also stabilize the brain.  Stress can cause insomnia, which in turn will destabilize the delicate balance of chemicals in the brain. A poor diet of sugary and processed foods can affect memory and learning, which causes more stress and a greater imbalance.

Consistently eating right and getting the appropriate amount of sleep will give the brain the support it needs to restore balance.

Finally, a proper exercise plan keeps the brain healthy and stress low.  Movement releases chemicals that promote feelings of calm and well-being. The effects decrease significantly when the body feels well and healthy, and it’s easier to feel happy and hopeful.  

Lack of exercise will cause stress and release harmful chemicals into the brain; somebody who exercises regularly is less likely to feel these effects.

Not only is it unpleasant, but it also has adverse physical effects on the brain when exposed for extended periods. These, in turn, influence the entire body.  Keeping the brain chemicals in balance will stop the cycle of stress causing health issues, which in turn create more stress.

By | 2018-09-24T11:01:53+00:00 September 2nd, 2018|Categories: Health & Wellness, Symptoms|Tags: , , |