What Stress is Doing to Your Brain

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What Stress is Doing to Your Brain

Stress is a complex biological response to a perceived threat or challenge.  This article explores the effects of stress on one important part of your body -- your brain -- and examines ways to reduce its negative impact.

 Improve your brain health with these relaxation techniques:

  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • prayer
  • biofeedback (using feedback on physical functions -- such as brainwaves, heart rate, or muscle activitiy -- to help change these functions)
  • guided imagery (mentally following a series of images described by a practitioner or recorded program)
  • psychotherapy (therapeutic interaction with a mental-health professional)
  • massage
  • labryinth-walking
  • mindfulness
  • yoga
  • deep-breathing exercise

Other things affecting your brain health:

  • engage in mental expercise on a regular basis (chess, reading, discussion groups, etc.)
  • follow a healthy diet (reduce saturated fats and increase omega-3 fatty acids)
  • consume alcohol in moderation
  • get enough sleep
  • drink enough water
  • exercise at least 30 minutes a day

Not only are these tips good for your general physical and mental health, but they may also help prevent the reduction in hippocampal size that occurs with normal aging.  Because the hippocampus is understood to process inforrmation about memories and to help regulate emotions, maintaining hippocampal health can help you preserve your memory and may help prevent emotional problems like depression and anxiety.  Fortunately, the hippocampus is a changing but also resilient brain area, so promoting its health is something nearly all of us can do.

Reducing stress in your life can have wide-ranging positive effects, from lowering blood glucose levels to promoting cardiovascular health.  Experiencing some stress is, of course, inevitable.  But theres is always something, and probably many things, you can do to make your life less stressful.

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