Your brain on stress – it’s scary

We all know that stress is not a good thing. But did you know that chronic stress can rewire your brain? Regular stress builds up the brain’s threat-detection systems, just as regularly lifting weights builds up your arms. At the same time, though, other parts of your brain shrink – including those used for deep-level thinking and problem-solving. These changes directly impact your work performance.

For example, many of my coaching clients have recently been complaining they’re having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Many of these people are just plain stressed out. After two years of pushing through pandemic chaos, they’re tired. In many cases, they’ve lost sight of the difference between endurance and resilience. If that’s happening with you, watch this week’s video.

Here are three other surprising facts about your brain on stress.

Fact 1: Stress is linked to memory loss

Scientists used to think this was a symptom linked only to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, they’ve now determined that’s not the case. Any stress causes your brain to release a hormone that blocks the production of memory-forming chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Fact 2: Stress-induced brain changes are long-term

This means that stress can impact your brain for much longer than you imagine. There’s currently research looking at the effects of brain changes in people who have been through traumatic experiences – such as soldiers serving in war zones. This shows that brain changes linked to stress kick in early – and may even damage brain development.

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Fact 3: Stress shrinks brain areas linked to higher learning

A recent brain imaging study shows that daily stress is linked with less grey matter in brain areas critical for memory, emotional regulation and decision making. What does this mean for YOU? It means that you can’t afford to ignore the impact of stress on your brain health.

Find out more about this concerning – but interesting – topic in my recent blog article. More importantly, do something to reduce your stress today. Stop working excessive hours and start spending time with supportive friends and colleagues. Get into nature – there’s strong evidence that being outdoors significantly reduces stress. Exercise. Or (my favourite stress-busting technique of all time) savour some chocolate while doing nothing at all.