EFFECTS OF STRESS ON THE BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM
The Universal Enemy of Your Brain
Reducing stress and resolving issues that may interfere with sleep and proper relaxation are critical elements for enhancing your brain performance. Stress really is the worst enemy of your brain — in the short term and in the long term. Chronic stress literally shrinks your hippocampus and destroys both your memory and learning capabilities. The more stressed you are, the more your hippocampus can shrink.One of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your brain vitality is to practice meditation on a regular basis. Meditation lowers levels of cortisol and improves blood circulation. Several studies have shown that meditation can grow your hippocampus, lower your blood pressure, and improve your cognitive function within weeks.
The prefrontal cortex is the brain’s executive control center. Short-term and chronic stress weaken the brain’s ability to self-regulate emotions, make decisions, respond ﬂexibly, organize thoughts, and engage social skills.
Thinking/observing brain can re-engage and calm down emotional brain regions by bringing mindful awareness to bodily sensations and emotions.
The amygdala becomes active when danger is present. Danger can be an external situation, thought, memory, or body sensation. Unmanaged stress can cause the amygdalda to become over-active.
AMYGDALA “ALARM SYSTEM”
Amygdala calms down, stressful implicit memories lose strength, positive/adaptive memories are formed and strengthened through neuroplastic changes in the brain.
The amygdala triggers activation of the sympathetic nervous system’s “ﬁght or ﬂight” response: stress compounds are released, muscles tense, breathing & heart rate increase. Excessive activation of this response weakens the prefrontal cortex’s ability to calm the amygdala causing a downward spiral of stress over-activation.
BASIC SURVIVAL MECHANISMS “FIGHT OR FLIGHT”
Survival defense mechanisms disengages and the parasympathetic nervous system’s “rest and digest” response is strengthened. A stronger parasympathetic nervous system buffers against future over activation of the sympathetic ﬁght or ﬂight” response, strengthening the ability of the prefrontal cortex to maintain self-regulation.
Effects of Excess Cortisol on the Body
- Decreased Metabolism
- Sleep Deprivation Migraines
- Tunnel Vision
- Acid Reﬂux Disease
- Decreased Immune
- System Hostility
- Shorter Lifespan