Does chronic stress cause irreversible brain damage?

Relax. You’ll have enough time to finish the impossible amount of work that you’ve been stressing about all day.

What if there was a way to extend the time we spend in good health? Chronic stress is bad for our mental and physical health is not an unprecedented concept. As such, many people are turning to stress management routine (e.g., yoga, breathing exercises, art therapy, etc.) to cope with life stressors.

There is mounting evidence supporting the negative effects of chronic stress on brain health. Current literature suggest that long-term stress causes alternations to brain structure and functions, which can contribute to various ailments, including mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Intriguingly, I’ve observed at my workplace that many patients with severe mental health issues, including psychiatric disorders, have experienced major life stressors from early childhood. Further, stress negatively affects functions of several body systems, including musculoskeletal, reproductive, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and gastrointestinal. However, whether stress reduction could reverse the damage is not yet understood.

Given the current evidence about the negative effects of chronic stress on mental and physical health, it  would make sense to commit to effective stress management strategies from early on in life in order to prevent, or at least delay the progression to stress-related health problems. Further, having stress management classes (something similar to Zumba classes) at hospitals, workplaces, and universities/colleges could prove to be beneficial for improving the overall health status of the community/nation. More importantly, these facilities could substantially help patients and their families cope with stress resulting from their health condition, and thus improve their wellbeing.

Where will we get the resources to implement these free-of-charge services? These services could be run by volunteers. Simple. Put on a video of yoga, or get some papers and markers to encourage collaboration among the participants and put their creativity to test. Such group activities could create a positive and motivating environment, which could have significant benefits to mental and physical well-being of the participants. Just give it a try?

Don’t stress, take it easy!



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