September 26, 2021
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Stress and Obesity
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stress

How does stress affect brain size?

Stressful situations happen to every person. The irony of fate lies in the fact that even the most pleasant events in our life – the birth of a child, the transition to a new promising job or promotion – is also emotional stress.

However, this is not always a bad thing: in some cases, extreme tension of the nervous system protects a person from possible danger – this is where the fight-or-flight reaction arose. Stress is one of the ways of self-preservation, which has outlived itself under the influence of all sorts of negative consequences.

The pace of life of a modern person in itself implies the presence of many stressful situations, and this “multitude” greatly exceeds the permissible norm. Given that the frequency and negative impact of such stressful events is too high, it is almost impossible to predict the reaction of the human body.

The topic of premature aging, one of the causes of which is stress, is devoted to a huge number of both scientific publications and articles intended for the attention of ordinary people. Very often, before and after photographs of presidents are used as an illustrative example. The logic is clear: the person who runs the country is responsible for all the difficulties experienced by its population. This means that the daily psychological pressure and the “aggregated amount” of nervous breakdowns experienced by a person during the presidency have a destructive effect on the state of his moral and physical health.

“The perception of stress is very individual. What gets on the nerves of your friends may not affect your feelings at all – and vice versa. In other words, it is not what happens to you that matters, but how you feel about it. “

It’s time to confirm all the listed hypotheses with scientific facts. 🙂

Stress and the brain

Stress and the brain are as closely connected as the left hemisphere and the right side of the body. In fact, the place of birth of stress is precisely the upper part of the human central nervous system.

There are three areas of the brain that are actively involved in recognizing and responding to stressful situations:

  • amygdala;
  • hippocampus;
  • prefrontal cortex.

All three zones are responsible for the production of stress hormones and regulate all subsequent reactions of the human body (heart palpitations, excessive sweating, etc.). By the way, these parts of the brain can also be negatively affected by nervous overstrain.

“Researchers are currently studying how stress affects the functioning of the human brain and, therefore, the processes of learning, remembering and making decisions.”

 

Effects of stress on the brain

Stress is the most common cause of brain malfunction. Several recent studies demonstrate how this happens. In one, an experiment was conducted showing the effects of stress on the long-term mental health of a baby monkey.

The experimental animals were divided into two groups: the first half was surrounded by peers for 6 months, while the second was placed next to their biological mothers. Before opening the cranium of the test subjects, the monkeys were returned to the habitat habitual for the representatives of the order of primates for some time.

The “stress” areas of the brain of baby monkeys reared by the society during the first 6 months of life were greatly enlarged. Of course, in order to investigate all the factors contributing to such results, it is necessary to conduct a number of such experiments. Still, it’s a little scary to assume that prolonged stress can have a long-term effect for the rest of your life.

Another experiment that confirms the assumption that stress does change the structure of the brain was performed in rats. In the course of the experiment, it was found that the hippocampus of rodents, which had been exposed to nervous tension for a long time, was significantly damaged.

The hippocampus is one of the main areas of the brain involved in the consolidation of short-term and long-term memory. For a long time, scientists have not ceased to argue about the relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the actual state of the hippocampus. There are suggestions that the propensity for PTSD is directly related to the size of the hippocampus.

Stress and cerebrovascular disease

Overwork, lack of sleep and especially constant stress lead to spasm of the vessels of the brain. Previously, this problem only occurred in older people, but now it increasingly appears in people in their early thirties.

Action of stress hormones

The human body produces several different stress hormones that have a direct impact on health.

An increase in the level of stress hormones (norepinephrine, adrenaline, cortisol, etc.), belonging to the subclass of glucocorticoids, is one of the mechanisms of the body’s fight against shock conditions. But at the same time, an overabundance of such does not bode well: the prolonged dominance of stress hormones dulls the ability to learn, remember and concentrate.

Stressful situations periodically happen to everyone, but it so happens that nervous tension becomes a normal state of a person, that is, it turns into a chronic form. For example, soldiers during hostilities experience strong psychological pressure and can be in a “fight or flight” state for months, their brains are constantly under stress. Such conclusions were made by scientists quite recently, since earlier it was widely believed that the duration of this reaction did not exceed 10 minutes.

Tania Glenn, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and PhD in Psychology, has written a series of impressive papers on stress in general and PTSD in particular.

During her speech to the personnel of the United States Air Force (USFA, United States Air Force), Tanya talked about how people who are in a “fight or flight” state for a long time experience symptoms of the so-called withdrawal syndrome (a reaction that occurs after stopping a drug means) after returning to their habitual harm. Tanya explained this state as follows:

“You feel terribly tired, but you cannot sleep; want to continue to lie in bed, but something forces you to get up … Your body is experiencing detoxification, supported by pleasant excitement. But just like in the process of breaking down any other toxin, a sharp drop in adrenaline and cortisol levels is not painless.

Effects of stress on the body

It is quite natural that stress hormones, spreading throughout the body due to continuous blood circulation, affect not only the structure and function of the brain, but also the human body.

1. Optimizing speed and strength

First, stressful situations cause blood to drain from the extremities towards the heart, lungs and back. Tanya Glenn claims that such a reaction of the body allows a person in emergency situations to perform seemingly impossible actions (there are well-known cases when, in moments of danger, people jumped 6-meter holes or overcame huge distances), but noticeably disrupts fine motor skills.

2. Slow down digestion

By using all available energy resources to combat stress, our body blocks other energy expenditures, such as digestion. That is why very often, having experienced strong nervous tension, a person may feel nausea or extreme exhaustion.

3. Slowing down thought processes

The rapid heartbeat associated with stressful situations sends a blocking signal to the prefrontal cortex of the brain and shifts the responsibility for assessing the situation and making decisions to the midbrain. Tanya calls this area “kill or be killed”.

4. Increased risk of disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90% of all diseases are caused by stress.

The consequences can be very diverse. Hypertension, angina pectoris, obesity, gastritis, ulcers, loss of libido, various skin diseases – these are only the most common “post-stress” ailments. Vivian Diller, PhD in Psychology, summarized the severity of chronic stress as follows:

“If you are under constant stress, it is very likely that one day your body will simply cease to obey you.”

How to restore the brain after stress?

You may be accustomed to a state of enduring anxiety, but this way of life does not lead to anything good. Anti-stress techniques – meditation, various physical exercises and relaxation – allow you to protect yourself from negative consequences and increase the level of “good” hormones in the body.

How to prevent stressful situations?

Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to absolutely protect yourself from any stressful situations, but you can take certain measures to reduce their number and intensity.

1. Organization of the working day. It’s very easy to lose your composure if you don’t have a clear idea of ​​what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a bit. Today there is no need to start thick diaries in order to keep within deadlines, not to be late for business meetings and to keep everything and everyone under control. Any smartphone has an Organizer app – it’s time to stop ignoring it. Even if you completely rely on the secretary, personally controlling your schedule is still much more convenient and effective

Try to figure out how you can combine routine tasks to reduce the amount of energy needed to complete them.”

2. Prioritization. When there is more and more work, it is not easy to do without such a skill as task prioritization. In addition, by clutching at everything and not bringing anything to a victorious end, you run the risk of being unemployed.

“If you feel that the work is getting too much, take 5 minutes and rank all the backlog of tasks according to their urgency and importance.”

3. Delegation of authority. You shouldn’t live by the rule “if you want to do something well, do it yourself”. It’s much more rational – and healthier – to ensure that your coworkers or employees do the same. Delegate your authority, while not forgetting about detailed instructions, specific wishes and algorithms.

4. Focusing. Effective prioritization, like A / C testing, has one characteristic – the execution of one specific task. It can be argued that only a few have such a habit, but everyone among them knows for sure that this approach works much more efficiently than trying to kill two birds with one stone.

And finally, one more useful tip:

“Always look for compromises. Many stressful situations – even if they cannot be eradicated – can be alleviated through simple negotiation. ”

High conversions for you!

Based on materials from  blog.bufferapp  

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