What Happens To Your Brain When You Are Under Stress?

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

Seneca

We are not only our body, but our physical body is part of our human experience and it needs to be cared for in a proper way. Our brain is part of our physical body and it plays a huge role in our well-being. When you are overwhelmed and facing stress, restoring your brain’s health is a good goal to start with. But why is brain health so important? What happens when your brain’s health is compromised? And what can you do to restore it to optimal levels?

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Our brain has several functions. One of these functions is to make sure we can make decisions and plans, solve problems, recall information stored in the form of memories or knowledge, and most of all regulate our emotions, thoughts, and behavioral tendencies. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that sits just behind your forehead, has a major responsibility in these functions, and in order to perform well, it needs to operate from a healthy arousal baseline.

This baseline is proportioned by the good functioning of our brain’s amygdala and hippocampus. If these two areas of the brain are not functioning properly, meaning they are either over or under-excited, problems arise. The amygdala allows us to pick up on nonverbal aspects and thus reads feelings and body sensations. It is the house of our emotional reactions. The hippocampus is responsible for our memory, and our learning capacity, and it also regulates and balances the brain’s amygdala. If the amygdala is the house of our emotional reactions, the hippocampus is the house of rational thought.

Our brain is part of our physical body and it plays a huge role in our well-being. When you are overwhelmed and facing stress, restoring your brain’s health is a good goal to start with.

Strong emotional reactions or substance abuse can shrink the hippocampus and reduce its healthy functioning. This makes it harder for it to assume its regulating role, together with the pre-frontal cortex, over the amygdala. A healthy arousal baseline requires that these three brain structures work together and in a balanced way. Excessive stress can hinder their teamwork and result in great damage not only to the physical body but also to all the other koshas or bodies we have.

While healthy amounts of stress are good for our performance, too much stress becomes detrimental. When we are under stress, we produce cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Healthy dosages of this hormone help us be mentally sharp and allow us to be in a healthy state of alertness. When these hormone levels are too high, our brain starts to malfunction and our cognitive skills are drastically reduced. This means the quality of our decisions and overall performance decrease. Our emotional reactions also skyrocket and it becomes difficult to manage strong feelings and sensations.

So to recap what happens in your brain when you are under excessive stress: your amygdala becomes super active, making you anxious and stressed at first; your hippocampus starts malfunctioning and can even shrink in size, making you go bananas; and your pre-frontal cortex starts to shut-down, making creative problem solving and self-regulation impossible. Through all this process, you can be plagued by unpleasant memories and past traumatic experiences, which may keep popping into your mental space and feeding negative emotions. When it really gets out of control, it can be very hard to break this loop. The good news is that our brain has a property known as plasticity, meaning it can change.

Tools to help you reduce stress:

If we put our heart, mind, and soul into making positive changes that contribute to greater brain health and well-being, we can change our brain structure and function. This means we don’t need to remain slaves to our brain’s imbalances. All we need to do is to engage in practices that can increase our overall well-being and which contribute to the regulation of our brain’s amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Change won’t happen overnight but I promise you will benefit a great deal from putting a Well-being Plan into action.

Such a plan can contain several different aspects, depending on your current lifestyle and personal experience. That’s why a good well-being diagnostic is important. There aren’t many professionals out there yet who have the tools or capacity to provide you with a good report of what you need to do to improve your well-being but don’t be discouraged. There are general guidelines you can explore and start putting into practice. Here are some examples:

  • stay lean as excessive body fat doubles the risk of psychological issues
  • workout daily as exercise helps regulate weight and mood
  • have plenty of fruits and vegetables as they are high in vitamins and minerals
  • drink plenty of water or other healthy fluids throughout the day

If you want to learn more ways to stay healthy and boost your well-being, I strongly recommend you to take part in the 10 Days of Well-being Challenge. This is a 10-day challenge that will allow you to learn and put into practice 10 different well-being habits. These habits have the power to change the quality of your life and help you achieve a greater level of inner peace and satisfaction. You can sign up here; it’s free. You can also book a well-being coaching session with me and we will not only design a tailored Well-being Plan for you but we will also be able to make a proper diagnosis of what you really need right now to unblock and improve your situation.

What is Well-being Coaching Psychology?

Well-being Coaching is a new profession that is evidence-based and designed to help you build a life that you love and that you feel happy about. Well-being Coaching is a new profession that helps you achieve your well-being goals.

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6 Comments

  1. Benny says:

    Thanks for this valuable information. I’ll start taking a bit better care of my brain and watch my stress levels. Although some say I can’t get more relaxed, but they don’t see I also stress about things.

    Thanks again!

    Like

  2. Maria Khan says:

    The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.

    Like

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