Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry

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Study shows that stress can “shrink” the brain

It is common knowledge that overworking yourself can cause stress, which can then lead to headaches, mood swings, fatigue, and nausea— all of these being regular symptoms of stress. They might seem like minor issues that would not need much tending to, but what’s not common knowledge is that if your levels of stress are prolonged or constant; there will be more severe symptoms than simple headaches.

Other than developing chronic illnesses such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, researchers have uncovered the more fascinating neurological effects of long-term stress.

According to scientists from Yale University, synaptic connections between brain cells can decrease the mass of your brain, specifically in the prefrontal cortex. These synaptic connections between brain cells are destroyed by cortisol, which is a ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol has the capability to kill brain cells, and even impair general brain functions.

The prefrontal cortex, the area affected by stress, is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating things like your behavior and attitude, which can explain the mood swings.
Since your brain mass decreases through stress, it can literally be said that stress can shrink the brain. The process of your brain shrinking is called cellular atrophy.

But before you become fearful of ever being stressed again, you can rest assured that this only applies to exceedingly lengthy levels of stress. If your stress levels are brought on in normal, small doses from life’s everyday pressures and obstacles, you probably don’t need to worry about your brain shrinking.

Small doses of stress can actually be fulfilling, healthy, and helpful. For example, experiencing stress right before giving a speech or preparing for an interview will provide you with an extra boost of adrenalin and energy.
Being immune to stress is unavoidable, and although there’s no way to predict the financial, personal, and other problems in our lives, the only thing we can do to fight potentially dangerous long-term stress is to develop a resilience to it.

Exercising is one of the best ways to combat your inevitable exposure to stress-related issue, along with at least 20 minutes of meditation every day.

Often, people link meditation to monks in robes sitting cross-legged inside temples; however, you can simply sit in silence and clear your thoughts in any comfortable environment. This simple act can already be considered your personal meditative technique. Studies show that people who exercise and meditate daily are more at ease and ready to handle problems that come their way.

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