Stress Affects Your Brain In Some Really Weird Ways, But These 3 Strategies Will Help You Relax — VIDEO
Stress comes in many forms, some good and some not quite as good. Sometimes, temporary stress can help us perform better and respond more quickly; other times, however, extended stress can actually change your brain for the worse. A new video from TED-Ed reveals exactly how stress affects your brain, and believe you me, it's quite the eye-opener.
The video, written by Madhumita Murgia and animated by Andrew Zimbelman, reveals that chronic stress can actually physically alter the fundamental structure of your brain. Whether that be size, shape, or function, your genes literally have the potential to rearrange themselves due to stress. But how? Let's dive into how the video breaks it all down.
You may be familiar with a hormone called cortisol. It's released when we find ourselves in stressful situations, and it helps provoke a necessary response. Yet, an excess of cortisol over an extended period of time has the potential to really mess up your system.
In your amygdala, aka the "fear center" of your brain, high levels or cortisol boost neural connections — which has the potential to create even more stress. Conversely, your hippocampus, aka the "memory and learning center" of your brain, is subject to a breakdown in neural connections after exposure to excess cortisol. This makes it even more difficult to deal with stressful situations.
The video points out that chronic stress essentially "paves the way" to more serious problems like depression and even Alzheimer's. Here, watch the full video for more:
It's definitely scary to think about, but fortunately stress and its harmful effects are controllable and reversible through a variety of techniques. Here are a few of my favorites:
Time and again, meditation has proven itself to be one of the most useful tools in any stress-management arsenal. Mindfulness meditation in particular, which involves sitting quietly and comfortably and focusing on the present, has numerous scientifically proven benefits. Mindfulness meditation is even proven to ease the effects of physical pain.
2. Coloring Books
Aside from being basically the most fun thing ever, coloring books have stress management-related benefits. Psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala told the Huffington Post, "The relaxation that [coloring] provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress." So, go buy yourself a new pack of crayons.
3. Physical Activity
I'm sure that exercise having de-stressing benefits comes as no surprise. It's a fact that's practically drilled into our brains. What most people don't note, however, is the fact that when you're stressed, sometimes the last thing you want to do is hit the gym or go for a run. Still, there's no denying the benefits of moving your body when you need to untangle your brain. If you're feeling stressed but not feeling like working out, try something like walking around the block, doing yoga in bed, dancing to your favorite Beyonce song, or cleaning your room. Even these smaller tasks will make you feel a whole lot better.