Stress isn’t necessarily bad. It’s our body’s response to those occasional challenges and pressures in life. When stressed, our bodies get “revved” up so we can take action and try to bring life a little back under control. Responding this way probably played a positive role in our survival to this point. But in modern times, due to our busier lives, more competitive workplaces, and constantly being connected to email, the internet, and a 24 hour news cycle dominated by disasters, our very active and creative brains keep consuming and reflecting on all this stressful stuff, which keeps our bodies in high gear with no breaks. This is bad for our health.
But one of the most damaging effects of unmanaged stress is the effect on our brains. When we experience stress (“real” or perceived), hormones released into the bloodstream affect parts of the brain responsible for our ability to think well. Chronic stress can result in memory impairment and even put people at risk for Alzheimer’s. Stressors also can affect working memory, attention control, and our ability to learn new things. Do you know your stress levels and how your life situation contributes to increasing stress or to helping you manage it?