Perhaps surprisingly, a small dose of stress can be beneficial; it helps you grow and become more resilient. However, when stress becomes a chronic condition—perhaps due to work-related stress, financial problems, a relationship breakdown, a family loss, or enduring harassment—it’s crucial to address it immediately.
Why the urgency? Persistent stress doesn’t just affect your day-to-day mood; it fundamentally alters your brain, leading to a range of potential health issues both physical and mental.
Consider this: your body has a built-in protective mechanism known as the blood-brain barrier. This natural barrier shields your brain from harmful circulating molecules. Under the weight of chronic stress, however, this barrier becomes less effective, allowing inflammatory proteins to enter the brain.
This not only puts you at greater risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease but also makes your hippocampus—the centre of learning and memory in the brain—vulnerable.
Scientific studies indicate that such inflammation can negatively impact the brain systems responsible for motivation and mental agility. Chronic stress also influences hormones in the brain, such as cortisol.
Extended periods of elevated cortisol levels can contribute to mood disorders and may even reduce the size of the hippocampus. Additionally, for women, it can lead to irregular menstrual cycles.
In summary, chronic stress is not a minor issue; it has far-reaching consequences for your well-being. It’s imperative to take action. Look out for Part 2 where we will look at other effects that chronic stress can have on your brain and Part 3, where we will explore effective strategies to regain control over your life.
If chronic stress is troubling you or holding you back in some way, let’s have a chat. There is every possibility that I can help you quickly let it go, possibly in only a session or two.
Adapted from ‘How chronic stress changes the brain, and what you can do to reverse the damage’, Neuroscience News, 14 March 2020
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