Chronic stress and specifically, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, create long-lasting brain changes that can begin as early as childhood.
This might explain why young people who are exposed to chronic stress early in life- divorce, problems at home, multiple moves, death of a parent, financial instability, problems at school- are prone to mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders later in life, as well as learning difficulties.
This new study reconfirms the importance of maintaining healthy brain structure and connectivity throughout your entire life by reducing chronic stress.
I will share some very important and easy ways that you can reduce chronic stress and achieve a healthier brain.
In a series of revolutionary experiments, Daniela Kaufer, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology, and her colleagues, discovered that chronic stress and elevated levels of cortisol can generate more overproduction of myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons (brain cells) than normal.
This restructures the brain in a bad way and makes you more likely to experience anxiety, mood swings, depression and it affects your memory and ability to learn.
Chronic stress has the ability to flip a switch in stem cells that turns them into a type of cell that inhibits connections to the prefrontal cortex, which would improve learning and memory, but lays down durable scaffolding linked to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
This basically hard wires the alarm system in your body so that it goes off for almost any reason and stays on.
THE GOOD NEWS:
No matter what happened to you in childhood and has happened to you as an adult- we have all been exposed to stressful conditions and situations-you do have the power to rewire your brain and improve your memory and ability to learn as well as decrease anxiety, depression and mood swings.
The power of neuroplasticity makes it possible to change brain structure and function throughout your entire life.
As long as you are breathing, you have a chance to rewire your brain and create a better one.
You can consciously make daily choices of mindset and behavior that will improve the structure and connectivity of your brain.
THREE WAYS TO REWIRE YOUR BRAIN TO BEAT CHRONIC STRESS:
1. Regular daily physical exercise
2. Mindfulness Meditation- prayer, reflection, quiet time alone
3. Having structure (a routine) in all of your daily life activities
STRUCTURE makes it easier for your brain to work and decreases stress.
THIS IS A PEARL:
One uses the least amount of energy in dealing with a structured life.
Having a routine that you follow daily takes the unnecessary chronic stress out of life and makes it more predictable.
The brain likes predictable and hates unpredictable situations.
Having operating systems in place for every area of your life- house cleaning- the brain loves order, having a place for everything and everything in its place, food preparation- preparing meals in advance or knowing where you will have access to good, healthy fuel, daily exercise, daily reflection time, reading and replying to e-mail, returning phone calls,catching up with friends and family- is key to reducing stress.
Showing up for yourself every day and making the time to exercise and meditate (reflect, pray, listen to soothing music alone,sit quietly alone, walk quietly alone) are both two ways you can easily reduce the chronic stress in your life and hard wire your brain to be stress proof instead of stress prone.
Your brain is constantly undergoing changes.
You are either hardwiring a brain that is resistant to stress by adding structure, exercise and meditation OR you are hardwiring a brain that is prone to stress- that causes anxiety, depression, mood swings, memory problems or learning difficulties.
I challenge you to spend as much time engaging in activities that lower your stress as you do in activities that increase your stress on a daily basis.
Just accepting this one challenge may be all you need to restructure your brain and become stress proof.