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Is Stress Shrinking Your Brain?


Stress increases the risk of mental disorders, depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, addiction, heart problems, hair loss and even skin disorders and other health conditions. When it's not managed properly, prolonged stress can lead to more serious, as well as permanent, conditions like memory loss, decreased learning ability even personality changes because stress physically effects your brain and it's functionality.

Before you start looking at your brain as if it is a big raisin, stress does not shrink your brain so much in a literal sense, but there are some structural changes and even a decrease in size to certain areas of the brain.

Stress and adversity are also associated with the part of the brain, which regulates self-control, cognitive processing and emotion, which is why it increases depression and addiction leading to a self-destructive lifestyle.

Scientists who have done various studies on how stress affects and changes the brain, discovered that the hormone released by stress, called cortisol, tampers with your brain's ability to make synaptic connections between the cells.

Meaning, your brain cannot produce new neurons, which then inhibits new brain cells from forming. If your brain can't communicate correctly due to something causing a 'bad connection', the message might get mixed up or perhaps not even reach its destination, causing that part of the brain to not function properly.

Stress can decrease the size of the gray matter in the hippocampus, the vital part of the brain, where your memories are stored as well as making new memories and learning new things. At the same time, stress increases the white matter of the brain, resulting into you having faster responses to fear and is also the reason for your decreasing 'coping skills', resulting in that anxious feeling you get where you just want to run away from everything..

Here is what you can do to stop losing your mind:

There are two things you can do which can effectively reduce stress and increase brain connectivity between cells;

1. Meditation

According to a Harvard researcher, if you do mindful meditation for 30 minutes a day, you will see measurable structural differences in the brain after about 8 weeks. The studies have shown an increase of grey matter in the hippocampus and decrease of matter in the amygdala, the part in the brain which is most active when stressed.

2. Exercise

Physical exercise activates the brain's hippocampus as well as strengthens the nerve fibre for efficient brain functionality.

Meditation and exercise can help repair the connections in the brain affected by stress, but always remember that a positive attitude feeds a healthy mind!

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