Protect your brain from damaging stress
Scientists say prolonged stress can have long-term effects how our brain functions including memory, cognition and attention.
You know that feeling when you’re stressed and in a hurry to leave your house but you suddenly can’t remember where you put your mobile phone? Or, what about feeling disorganized when you have a big project looming?
This short-term forgetfulness or confusion is normal and nothing to worry about.
Scientists say prolonged stress, however, can have long-term effects how our brain functions including memory, cognition, and attention.
Damaging stress or uncontrolled stress can also affect our anxiety and mood, brain health, heart health and cause other chronic diseases.
So, how do we know the difference between damaging stress and harmless stress?
Dr. Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says if a person can anticipate stress, it is less damaging than stress that appears to be more random.
Scientists say there is evidence that chronic stress may rewire our brains and cause irreversible damage. This persistent stress builds up the part of the brain designed to handle threats while the part of the brain intended for more complex thought doesn’t do its tasks.
Here are a few ways to protect yourself from damaging stress:
- Get a good night’s sleep. “Sleep deprivation makes parts of the brain that handle higher-order functions work less well,” says Dr. Ressler.
- Focus on controlling the things you can. Especially when the stress isn’t predictable.
- Change your attitude to stress: “A life without stress is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting — in fact, a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth,” says Dr. Ressler.
- Make lists to stay organized: “Laying tasks out like this helps reduce the feeling that the brain is being bombarded,” Dr. Ressler says.
- Get help: When you learn to manage your stress, you can protect your brain health.
Take action against damaging stress: