Do you feel irritability or turn moody? Do you forget little things and feel isolated and overburdened?
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Don’t worry. We all have been there. You probably are just stressed out. Stress is not always a bad thing. But, it starts changing your brain if it goes on, and most of us experience it in day-to-day life. Chronic stress, such as that resulting due to having an argument at home or being overworked, can affect the brain size, its structure, and how it functions right down to the level of your genes. Stress starts with the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and interaction between the endocrine glands in the brain and on the kidney, which controls your body’s reaction to the stress. When a stressful situation is detected by your brain, your HPA axis is activated instantly and releases a hormone called cortisol, which primes your body for immediate action. But, high levels of cortisol do wreak havoc on your brain over long periods. For instance, chronic stress increases the level of activity and number of neural connections in the amygdala – the fear center of your brain. As the level of cortisol rises, the electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, memories, and stress, control detrition. Cortisol can cause your brain to shrink in size and too much of it leads to the loss of synaptic neuronal connections and your prefrontal cortex being shrinking i.e. the part of your brain that regulates behaviors, such as concentration, decision making, judgment, and social interaction.
It also leads to fewer brain cells being made in the hippocampus. This means chronic stress might make it harder for you to learn or remember things and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, such as depression and, eventually, Alzheimer’s disease. The effects of stress may filter down to your brain’s DNA. Although many studies have shown a connection between stress and mental health issues, the reason for this connection remains unclear.
Distress can cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach upset, increased blood pressure, chest pain, and sleeping problems. Research suggests that stress can also cause or aggravate certain symptoms or diseases. Chronic stress increases our risk of addictive and destructive behavior, anxiety, depression, as well as other mental health issues. It may also increase the risks of physical health problems, such as heart disease, insomnia, muscle pain, obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, and damage to our immune system. Chronic stress also affects the mental health of one person. Many studies indicate a correlation between stress and mood disorders are anxiety disorders and depression. Toxic stress can impair the immune system of the body and exacerbate any illnesses that are already present.
It’s hard to find time to relax and disengage from so many sources of stress. That’s why stress is one of the greatest health problems people face today. Identify triggers that cause stress. Find out what situations are causing you to get stressed by recording your stress levels and day-to-day activities. Write down all of your liabilities and commitments. You may need to reprioritize or eliminate certain unessential tasks.
Therefore, reducing stress is important to enhance your long-term health. Here are some ways you can follow to alleviate the stress.
1.Have Social Support
Strong social support can provide you a buffer to stress. Families and friends can listen to your problems and provide support and advice, thereby reducing your frustration. Social support can calm the circuitry of the brain that fires during emotional pain.
2.Get More Sleep
A lack of sleep causes major stress issues. Stress interrupts our sleep as thoughts continue to whirl through our heads, thereby preventing us from relaxing enough to fall asleep. The relation between the stress and deprivation of sleep is bidirectional. Stress can keep you up at night, and sleep deprivation may aid your overall stress level. Practicing good sleep hygiene to break the cycle, such as reducing the intake of caffeine, developing a regular sleep schedule, eliminating screens (like TV, phone, and computer) that can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime, and avoiding naps during the day.
3.Relax Your Body and Mind
There are a lot of relaxation techniques that you can practice on your own. These include deep breathing, progressive relaxation of the muscle, and meditation. These exercises help to clear your mind, slow the heart rate, and lower muscle tension significantly.
Not just exercise takes our mind off stress, it releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel better. As physical exercise helps to metabolize excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a more relaxed, calmer state.
Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will overall help you feel better. It can help to control your moods greatly. Your meals should be full of energy-filled vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein. Eat healthy and on time. Do not skip your meals.
When you are laughing, it’s hard to feel anxious. It is good for your health, and laughing is an easy yet effective way to help relieve stress: relieving your response to stress. Relax your muscles to relieve tension. Long-term laughter can also help enhance your immune system and improve your mood.
There are various ways to reverse the effect of cortisol on your stressed brain. Some of the efficient ways to minimize stress are practicing exercise and meditation techniques, such as deep breathing, and being aware of and focusing on your surroundings. These activities help decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus which in turn improves your memory. Hence, get in control of your stress before it controls you.