Relax, Baby, Relax! How Stress Affects the Brain and the Body

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Stress is sneaky. It comes in such a wide range of emotions we hardly notice until it has completely taken over our moods.

More than 74 percent of people in the UK report having experienced extreme stress in 2018. This is troubling because this extreme stress is an inability to cope with everyday life.

How did we get to this point and how do we fix it? Take a look at this overview of how stress affects the brain and how it affects different demographics.

How Stress Affects the Brain

Your brain is a tool. In top shape, your brain helps you perform the essential tasks needed to help you, not only survive but live a good life.

But in the wrong hands, your brain becomes a storage closet muddled with millions of bits of information. Cleaning out this closet on a regular basis is essential to avoid long term impacts on the brain.

A Harvard study shows that both dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are related to a lifetime of chronic stress.

The amygdala is the part of your brain that handles survival. When it’s overworked because of constant emotional emergencies, it leaves less energy for other parts of your brain to perform important tasks. 

This is the main reason you become forgetful or block out terrible events in your life. Long term stress can actually rewire your brain. 

Your brain, over time, becomes excellent at facing danger but poor at complex creative thinking. This situation is especially complicated when higher-order thinking and stress are combined.

Here are a few key demographics where stress might induce survival and higher-order thinking tactics and how to keep your balance.

College Students

There’s no demographic that experiences the complexity of stress more than university students. The more prestigious the university, the higher the stress levels.

The medical journal Depression and Anxiety reveals that suicide risks are high for students struggling with things like personal identity, new environments and academic demands all at once.

According to the medical journey study, around one in five students have considered suicide while only one in ten actually attempted it. These rates are triple among transgender and gay students. 

When students look to family support to help normalize the college experience, their stress rates reduce. Managing expectations of success are also helpful. 

Students should aim to communicate regularly with family on how stress affects them and seek counseling on self-identity.

The need for inclusion is great. Social clubs that offer support to marginalized groups help students feel accepted as they navigate challenging academics and self-identity. 

New Parents

New mothers are at risk for high-stress situations. Compared to 67 percent of men, 81 percent of women in the UK are stressed.

When combined with the stress of being a new parent, this can lead to mental health risks in new mothers. One of the most common dangers is postpartum depression.

One in five new mothers is affected by postpartum depression. Stressful life events right before or after giving birth are one common cause of depression in new mothers.

New moms diagnosed with postpartum depression can benefit from either cognitive behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy. In some cases, doctors prescribe antidepressants to help regulate brain chemicals that control your mood. 

Parenting is one commonly overlooked job that requires higher-order thinking. Parental burn out because of postpartum depression or the baby blues can have harmful effects on the entire family.

If parents aren’t depressed, it’s important to develop ways to retrain the brain to handle stress appropriately. A technique called cognitive restructuring is used by psychologists to modify your perspective.

Asking yourself key questions during an anxiety attack can help gradually ease your nerves. This technique is one of many ways to fight stress whether you’re a parent or not. 

Top Tips for Relaxation

If you’re in a constant state of emergency, it’s time to take action to take back your brain through these important strategies. Beyond advanced psychological strategies are simple lifestyle changes that can help you a more relaxed life. 

Chronic stress puts certain areas of your brain on constant high alert leaving little resources for other areas of the brain. Unfortunately, habits, like eating junk food and drinking too much alcohol, are more difficult for your body to handle along with stress.

Eating a balanced diet and avoiding alcohol or caffeine are two immediate ways to transform your health. The second option is self-care.

Distract your mind from stress through natural techniques like aromatherapy or massage. A simple change in fragrance in your room triggers the brain away from the need to survive and into a more tranquil state. 

The skin is the body’s largest organ. An occasional massage stimulates the organs directly in a way your brain may not be able to handle during panic attacks. 

Here’s a quick list of relaxation tools you can use to reduce stress:

These are just a start to stress management. The goal is to begin addressing stress gradually to avoid being overwhelmed by the idea of making changes to your lifestyle. 

The Road to Good Health

Everyone experiences stress. This doesn’t mean stress is something to ignore. 

Left unchecked, stress can lead to long term health problems. Learning how stress affects the brain is one of the first steps in getting treatment.

Don’t confront stress alone. Use anti-stress tools to push you towards relaxation when you feel overwhelmed with anxiety. 

These tools are a great first step toward positive mental health. For more information on our anti-stress products, please check out our website





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