Stress is an unavoidable emotion that we deal with daily. Though having a little stress may be healthy, heightened stress can cause an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, which could lower your immune system and put you at risk for disease. More than that, chronic stress can negatively impact your brain’s function. Here are some negative effects stress has on the brain, and some simple ways to counteract them.

 

Emotion

One of the most noticeable effects of stress is heightened emotions. You may find yourself having memory problems, feeling more irritable, and anxious. This is because stress builds up in the part of the brain that houses fear. This can cause the part of your brain that holds memories to weaken, while increasing the activity in your fear center.

You can lower your stress and anxiety levels by meditating. Stress is an emotion that comes from your thoughts, and learning to control your thoughts can help to eliminate those negative emotions.

 

(Flickr/Troy Jack)

(Flickr/Troy Jack)

Depression

The function of your neurotransmitters, the paths through which your cells communicate, can be lowered by chronic stress. This will prevent the creation of serotonin and dopamine, the “happy” chemicals, which can lead to developing depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

This can be counteracted by using adaptogenic herbs. This is a natural remedy that will help your mind balance feeling energetic and calm, and it will also support overall body health. Some adaptogenic herbs are ginseng, holy basil, and arctic root.

 

Toxins

Your brain is the most sensitive part of the body, which makes it the most dangerous area to let toxins into. The brain has an outer wall that prevents toxins from entering while letting nutrition in. Chronic stress can begin to break down this barrier, making your brain more susceptible to having toxins leak in.

This can be prevented by eating foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help clean the toxins and waste from your body. Fruits and vegetables are both rich in antioxidants. You can also try drinking green tea, or if you have a sweet tooth you can go for some dark chocolate.

 

Alzheimer’s

The sixth leading cause of death is a potential risk of chronic stress. The anxiety and moodiness caused by chronic stress can nearly double the chance of developing Alzheimer’s later in life, and the elevated levels of cortisol can increase the speed at which Alzheimer’s and dementia progress in the elderly.

Though there is no set-in-stone cure, there are many lifestyle choices one can make to help prevent this. The combination of maintaining a healthy diet low on sugar and high on brain-healthy fats, and having an exercise routine can help your mind stay active and your body stay strong.

 

Acute stress can keep your mind aware and your fight-or-flight response active, but chronic stress can have a deep impact on your brain function. Stress is a normal part of life, but it is important to be able to control it when it gets out of hand.

 

How do you handle stress? Follow the conversation below, or on Twitter @VictoriaRimer