Hans Selye, known as the “father of stress research” and who coined the word “stress” in 1936, said, “It is not stress that kills us, but our reaction to it.” Today I want to talk about how stress affects the brain based on the book, Brain Rules by John Medina. Then I’ll give you some of my own ideas on how you can START SOMEWHERE to nurture yourself and decrease the stress in your life.
Stress is a factor in five out of six leading causes of death, namely heart disease, accidents, cancer, stroke, and low respiratory disease. It plays a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, depression, and anxiety. It has been estimated that stress is responsible for 75-90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians. Although we are designed for short-term stress, it is the chronic, common, long-term stress that contributes to debilitation and loss of joy in life.
Not all stress is the same. It is the long-term stressors that we think we have no control over that damage our bodies, including our brains. Short-term stress can actually boost performance. Too much adrenaline over the long term can scar blood vessels, deplete the immune system, and negatively affect memory.
It’s easy to talk on and on about the problem! What one thing can you do today to decrease stress in your life, think more clearly, and LIVE YOUNGER?
- Exercise! It really works to decrease stress and it doesn’t require a gym membership! Walking 30 minutes a day will do a world of good.
- Drink pure water. Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger and can stimulate the munchies. Staying hydrated helps your energy level and helps you think more clearly.
- Journal. Write out your feelings. This helps you gain perspective and see more clearly the options for decreasing stress.
- Develop one new friend that you can trust. They are hard to find but worth it.
- Find a place to volunteer. Get your mind off of your worries by helping someone else.
- Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary stimulation or “high” often ends with a crash in energy. You are better able to deal with the challenges in life with stable blood sugar.
- Develop a sleep plan. It’s easy to think that sleep is optional! Get on a relaxing routine before bedtime.
Nurture yourself to decrease stress and protect your brain. You can do it. I will help you.