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how does the brain respond to stress

This is How Your Brain Responds to Stress ; 10 Golden Tips to Manage Stress Naturally

Have you felt like stress is closer to you than calm? In this article, we are answering the question, “How does the Brain Respond to Stress?

Stress is a phenomena characterized by a physiological response to external demand. During this response, cortisol and glucose are released in large amounts, contributing to a “fight or flight” reaction. This causes cells to receive extra energy in order to handle danger or stress, which is followed by a cool-down period. Chronic and intense stress can be harmful, particularly to the brain which begins to atrophy over time.

Mental Health Experts recommend these 10 Tips to Manage Stress:

  1. Establish a repeatable routine
  2. Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time everyday
  3. Get Yourself Organized
  4. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  5. Change Your Mindset to Welcome Stress
  6. Get Your Blood Pumping!
  7. Listen to Your Breathe
  8. Eat Organic Foods
  9. Be Proud of Yourself for Trying to Make a Change
  10. Don’t Shut Out Your Friends, Family and Professional Help

What is Stress?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health stress can be defined as, “the brain’s response to any demand.” Given this broad definition, mostly anything requiring attention or energy can be stressful; however, not all stress is the same. 

There are good kinds of stress (usually of low intensity), that can motivate us into positive change, and there are bad kinds (usually of high intensity or lengthy in duration) which can actually impede us in our day to day lives. 

The Different Types of Stress

Let’s take a look at some examples of these different types of stress:

Person A is concerned about their future. This concern prompts them to make some smart investments that pay off down line. This person is experiencing a low urgency, low intensity, acute level of stress that they are channeling into responsible spending. 

After the stressful event takes place, cortisol is then released into the blood stream in order to re-energize depleted cells. According to Harvard Medical School, “When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.” This process is meant to provide extra energy to the cells of an individual in order to “fight or flee” in response to stress. 

Person B is concerned about their future. They experience an unreasonably high amount of anxiety and stress, causing them to engage in reckless spending. Now Person B is in debt and experiencing what can be described as chronic stress. Due to the duration and intensity of the sensation, this stress is harmful.  

The “fight or flight” sensation experienced is responsible for the physical phenomena we associate with stress such as: high blood pressure, deeper oxygen intake and increased adrenaline. Over time cells begin to oxidize as a result of the chemical exchange taking place, and this can cause them to atrophy. 

What Do Most People Worry About?

According to the American Psychological Association, most Americans are stressed about mass shootings and healthcare, with a striking 7 out of 10 adults citing one or both as sources of stress.  Aside from issues relating to political climate and society common sources of individuals’ stress can include: loss of a loved one, financial hardship, injuries, health, pressure at work and marital strife. 

How does the brain respond to stress?
How does the brain respond to stress? We feel overly worried!

Given the recent scientific data demonstrating the effects of stress on health isn’t it kind of ironic that stress would have such a negative effect on your well-being? Well, naturally, we want to work on keeping this kind of effect to a minimum, which is why Harvard researchers suggests that people develop a new outlook on stress saying that it “seems to interfere with cognition, attention, and memory”.

A life completely devoid of stress wouldn’t be very exciting or meaningful, would it? Rather than try to achieve that impossible scenario it would be more realistic and ultimately better to strive for healthier reactions to stressful situations. By doing so you are actually shielding your body and mind from the oxidative damage being done to your cells. 

10 Golden Tips to Protect Yourself from Stress

Learning to identify your stress points can help you better-manage your stress, explore these 11 Tips to prevent the damaging effects of stress on your brain.

#1. Routines Give You Better Control Over Stress

Focus your attention on controlling what you can. Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, quotes, “Having a routine is good for development and health.”

#2. Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time everyday

Stress thrives on our lack of sleep. Dr. Ressler states, “Sleep deprivation makes parts of the brain that handle higher-order functions work less well.” Here are some handy tips to use sleep to deter stress:

  • Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time each day
  • Drink all of your coffee before noon
  • Make your room an environment that encourage sleep
  • Avoid TV at night
  • Use Melatonin or a Hemp Extract to soothe your body into deep, natural sleep
Find a natural way to get your best night’s sleep.

#3. Organization is the Key to Mental Clarity

Your daily chores and errands are only burdensome if you do not organize them. Dr. Ressler comments, “Making a list gives you a clear end point so you know when you are done. Laying tasks out like this helps reduce the feeling that the brain is bombarded. It can also help you predict when you are likely to be stressed.”

#4. Treat Yourself like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

Dr. Jordan Peterson recommends that we “treat ourselves like someone we are responsible for helping.” If your stress has overwhelmed you past what you can handle, seek help. Your friends, family or a mental health professional may provide the help you need.

#5. Change Your Mindset to Welcome Stress

The thoughts you think about stress determine it’s control over your life. “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.” Learn to change your attitude to welcome stress as a means to grow.

#6. Get Your Blood Pumping!

I know this sounds cliché but I cannot stress the importance of staying active. Not only will your brain thank you for the elevated “feel good” endorphins released, your self confidence will increase, while your stress decreases! Personally, I’ve found riding a bicycle to be very effective, while many others prefer hiking or going to the gym.

#7. Have You Listened to Your Breathe Today?

Remember to breathe. Again, I know this sounds cliché, but taking time out of your day to focus on nothing but your breath will do much more than just relieve stress, it has been proven to increase productivity as well as overall physical well being. This isn’t anything new, in fact, this practice is thousands of years old, and is commonly known as “mindfulness”, a form of meditation. 

#8. Pay Attention to Where Your Food Comes From

Fast-food is the fast track to stress. Without the proper nutrients to function, your body will start to sacrifice certain functions in order to compensate for the malnutrition. Enrich your diet with whole, organic foods from the Earth.

#9. Be Proud of Yourself for Trying to Make a Change

Change your perspective. Don’t view a source of tension as a source of defeat! Take pride in yourself as you look for a way through or around your obstacles, and satisfaction as you reflect on your successes. 

#10. Don’t Shut Out Your Friends, Family and Professional Help

Experiencing high levels of stress can prompt individuals to isolate themselves as a means of coping. Don’t fall into this trap! Rely on friends and family for moral support when times get tough.

Remember, there’s no one answer to everyone’s problems, but the above is basically a universally applicable checklist for anyone seeking to transform their outlook and handle stress better. Whether you’re young, old, male, female, salaried or unemployed, using the tips given above can be beneficial to you. 

What Does Stress Do to the Brain?

The occurrence of stress is indicated by a response by the nervous system to a demand on the brain. The nervous system has two main divisions, the central nervous system involving the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral division, consisting of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and the Somatic Nervous System. The ANS is again further divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). 

How does the brain respond to stress? Memory can suffer!

During stressful situations the SNS governs what is called “fight or flight” by signaling the release of hormones, specifically adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones together along with response from autonomic cells, causes the heart to beat faster, respiration (breathing) to increase, dilation of blood vessels in the arms and legs and increased glucose levels. When the situation comes to an end, the body must then recover from the event, which happens thanks to the PNS by opposing the effects of the SNS, it acts as a brake to cause the body to enter the “rest and digest” phase.  The PNS response is sometimes harmful though, especially to individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, because it limits blood flow and constricts airways in order to return the body to its pre-stress state.

How Do We Perceive Stress?

According to Harvard Medical publications, sensory input provides “information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the images and sounds. When it perceives danger, it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.” The hypothalamus is the hub of the brain so to speak, it communicates with the rest of the body via the nervous system in order control the bodies responses to outside stimuli. 

The purpose of the amygdala is to recognize and warn the hypothalamus about impending harm so that it may signal the release of epinephrine and cortisol so that your cells have the energy to either resist the threat or escape it. Other nutrients, like glucose, are released as well. 

All this activity is rather taxing though, and it is no surprise that the body needs time to cool down from the events that have just unfolded. During this time airways return to normal size, capillaries contract, and stasis is achieved. 

How Stress Affects the Brain Over Time

Over time, stress begins to atrophy the brain because of the oxidative damage incurred, mostly from the overactivity of cortisol scientists believe. As a matter of fact high stress levels have been associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other memory related diseases. Not only that but leading a tense lifestyle can lead to social isolation, withdrawal from commitments and lack of motivation.

How does the brain respond to stress? Learning and memory are impaired!

Other major behavioral changes associated with stressing out are: over or under eating, angry outbursts, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, shirking of responsibilities and withdrawal from family or loved ones. 

These issues become cyclical, which is to say: they develop into a vicious cycle. The more harmful effects we experience as a result of stress serve only to exacerbate our stress levels! Chronic and prolonged activation of the brains fight or flight mechanisms can be extremely harmful to the brain and overall health. This is why it is so important to remember that it is our reaction to stress that damages our mind, not the stress itself. Do yourself a favor, develop a new outlook on tough situations, try to remain positive, share about issues with friends or loved ones, exercise, eat right, remain calm. Take that advice to heart, and you will be just fine.

Conclusion

How does the brain respond to stress? Stress is characterized by a response to external demand, causing the “fight or flight” reaction, where cells receive extra energy in order to handle danger or stress. It is imperative we use these 10 tips to learn how to manage stress in our everyday lives.

  1. Establish a repeatable routine
  2. Go to sleep and wake-up at the same time everyday
  3. Get Yourself Organized
  4. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  5. Change Your Mindset to Welcome Stress
  6. Get Your Blood Pumping!
  7. Listen to Your Breathe
  8. Eat Organic Foods
  9. Be Proud of Yourself for Trying to Make a Change
  10. Don’t Shut Out Your Friends, Family and Professional Help

Thank you for taking the time to read How Does the Brain Respond to Stress ; 10 Golden Tips to Manage Stress Naturally! I recommend trying one of our premium Hemp Extracts to support your best night’s sleep, click here to check them out!

To your wellness,

Jess Etchemendy

Have questions on how does the brain respond to stress? Email me at jess@greenlifeorganics.com!

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