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Is Stress Destroying Your Brain?

Stress ReliefApologies for the direct and high impact title, but is stress destroying your brain? If you’re struggling to focus, it may just be down to stress. Most of us know that stress is harmful to our bodies. Stress plays a vital part in our survival mechanism as human beings, but for sustained periods of time, it has been proven unequivocally that stress is harmful to our bodies. It leads to illness and disease and in extreme cases – well let’s not go there. Did you know that stress actually causes your brain to shrink? Stress can cause the hippocampus to shrink – the part of the brain responsible for memory. Sustained periods of stress can also kill off neurons. This is why it’s so important to learn how to manage stress, before it manages you. Here are some tips from Margery D. Rosen for AARP.org.

1. Get to know your stress response

Before you can tame tension, you need to understand what triggers it. But getting at that isn’t always as simple as it sounds. Thanks to a mix of genetics, hormones and cultural factors, stress affects everyone differently: Something that ratchets up your stress level may not faze your best friend. Gender also makes a difference: A man’s blood pressure spikes more sharply under stress than a woman’s, though she may feel jolts of stress more often, and about more things.

Also, stress symptoms can be so subtle — a knot in the stomach or a tightening of the throat — that you may not even register them as such, especially if unaddressed stress is a constant in your life.

Tip: Do a personal body scan. Does your heart race? Do you struggle with a pain in your gut that antacids can’t quell? Do you often forget or misplace things, or find yourself barking at people for no good reason? All of these may be signs of stress. Try to home in on what might be triggering it: a call from a sick parent? Another spat with your spouse? Keeping a daily log can help you spot patterns, and be sure to consult your physician to rule out serious health issues.

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If you read the rest of this post you’ll have seen that some other great stress relieving methods include exercise (no surprises there), sleeping, meditation and to fret less. For me, exercise has to be the best way to alleviate stress. In fact, every single person I know agrees that exercise is the most effective method to beat stress. According to Tony Schwartz, who wrote The Power Of Full Engagement, aerobic exercise is the no.1 method for emotional renewal. Interesting huh?

Sleep can be a catch 22 situation as I have found in the past. If you’re stressed, you may struggle to sleep. And when you find you can’t sleep, this can get stressful! Chronic lack of sleep is also harmful to your brain so it’s really important to resolve any sleeping problems – and naturally – which generally involves plenty of exercise, little or no caffeine,  time for relaxation before bed without technology (TV, computer, phone), getting into a routine – and sorry to say it, but cutting out alcohol until you’re back to normal. Alcohol induces “rebound anxiety.”

If you’d like to find out more about meditation for stress relief and boosting brain power, click here. Please share if you found this useful!



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