Ask yourself, are you stressed? Do you feel stressed at this very moment? How often would you answer yes? If you almost always answer: yes, you constantly feel stressed… don’t worry, you are not alone. More than 75% of adults report symptoms of stress, including headache, tiredness, or sleeping problems (American Psychological Association, 2019). But first of all, what is stress? Stress can be defined as any type of change that can cause physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that needs your attention or action (World Health Organization, 2021). Our brain determines what is “stressful” and creates emotional and physical reactions, positive or negative, which manifests in your body internally and externally. In other words, your brain decides when you are stressed, then it creates reactions in your mind, your gut and your skin. Yes, they are all connected! First, we’ll touch on how stress affects the mind and brain!
Mind & Brain
If you don’t know the difference between mind and brain, don’t worry, we have a journal post on that; but let’s start with our brain and how stress can affect it.
Stress & the Brain
Stress can cause an imbalance in the brain which can affect our mood, decision making, behavior and emotional state. Naturally, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, also known as the “stress” hormone; Cortisol works with your brain to control how you feel (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021). Think of it as your body’s natural alarm system! However, when we experience chronic stress, our bodies begin to produce extremely high levels of cortisol which can have negative effects on the brain. Chronic stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of our brain (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020).
Stress & the Mind
In terms of our minds, stress can manifest in many ways like sadness, memory loss, irritability, fatigue and insomnia. Our mental health is something stress can definitely affect and can lead to problems like depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. Stress can also trigger our “fight-or-flight” response which is our automatic physiological reaction to it, such as an increased heart rate, heightened senses and deeper breathing. It’s activated by a sudden release of stress hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Stress is an inevitable part of life, however chronic stress can have severe and significant consequences on the brain and mind. Understanding stress, its effects, how our bodies work and how to combat these effects is the first step to improving your overall health. Do good, feel good!
What You Can Do About It
Don’t worry, there’s good news! There are so many ways to manage and cope with stress. One way to manage your stress is to reevaluate your routine, lifestyle and habits. We’re all unique individuals that have different ways of managing and coping with our stress. Meditation, self-care, reading a book, movement, skin care, hair care, having fun with friends, eating clean whole foods and taking vitamins and supplements, are some of the many ways that can help you manage your stress. You can ask yourself: Do I sleep enough? How does my skin feel? How does my gut feel? Am I moving my body? Do I drink enough water? Am I taking my vitamins and supplements? Am I taking time for me? Do I feel good?
Ask yourself what makes you feel good? What can help release that “feel-good” brain chemical called endorphins? Our bodies release it during enjoyable activities. Exercising, getting a facial or a massage, eating good food and sex are some of the other ways you can keep your stress at bay and feel good! Most of all find what works for YOU!
“Protect Your Brain from Stress.” Harvard Health, 15 Feb. 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress.
“Stress Effects on the Body.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body.
“Stress.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/stress#:~:text=Stress%20can%20be%20defined%20as,to%20your%20overall%20well%2Dbeing.
“Understanding the Stress Response.” Harvard Health, 6 July 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response.
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AS MEDICAL ADVICE. THIS POST IS NOT MEANT TO TREAT, CURE, PREVENT, OR DIAGNOSE CONDITIONS OR DISEASES; AND IS MEANT FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TRYING ANY NEW TREATMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS.