Chronic Stress and the Brain

Chronic Stress and the Brain

While a bit of stress may be considered a good thing, chronic or severe stress can have a huge impact on the brain, putting us at risk for a number of physical and psychological problems, writers for The Conversation proclaim. 


When under repeated stress, the brain’s hippocampus, which is critical for learning and memory, gets bombarded with inflammatory proteins which “can adversely affect brain systems linked to motivation and mental agility.” The hippocampus has also been found to shrink when exposed to high, prolonged levels of cortisol which may be released during times of chronic stress. This can lead to depression and anxiety, as well as other physical ailments. 


But all is not lost. There are a number of ways sufferers can not only combat chronic stress but also increase neurogenesis (the production of new brain cells) as well. One of these things is exercise, which not only tackles inflammation “by leading to an anti-inflammatory response”, increases neurogenesis in important areas of the brain, such as the hippocampus, and improves mood, cognition, and physical health. Connecting with the people around you has also shown to distract sufferers and help reduce the feelings of stress. Mindfulness and giving are also options that have shown additional benefits. 


However, the article authors stress that one of the most important ways to combat chronic stress is early detection. “Early detection and early effective treatment is the key to a good outcome and good wellbeing,” the article authors write. “And you don’t have to wait until you are overwhelmed with stress. Ultimately, it is important that we learn from an early age to keep our brain fit throughout our whole life course.”


Read the full article here