The influence of stress on the brain
We all were once irritated or worried about something. It used to happen that they could not fall asleep for a long time thinking about a thought. Every person is familiar with experiencing stress.
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But stress is not always a negative experience. He can be an assistant. For example, when we need to speak publicly in front of a large audience, or if an athlete has competition, then stress mobilizes our forces.
But when a person experiences stress for a long time, he can subject the whole organism to negative changes. In this article, I would like to draw attention to how long-lasting stress affects our brain.
- Chronic stress, or as it is also called distress, which happens with constant overloads or prolonged conflicts at work or in the family affects the size, structure and functioning of the brain.
- Stress is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. This interaction between the endocrine glands and the adrenal glands. When our brain determines a stressful situation, it signals the body to activate and synthesizes such a hormone as cortisol.
Cortisol leads our body into a state of high combat readiness, according to the plan of nature, our ability to act is increased, but not to think. An example of this is panic, when a person can find himself in another place in a short time and do not remember how he got there. Actions in a state of affect also fall into this category.
Long-term exposure to cortisol harms the human brain in a way that stimulates the development of connections in the brain’s tonsils at the center of fear. As a consequence, increased anxiety – or a trifling situation starts to be perceived as dangerous.
Along with the prolonged increase in the level of cortisol, neural connections in the hippocampus (parts of the brain responsible for learning, memory and control of emotions and their behavior) are destroyed. A person becomes unbalanced , easily influenced by emotions, one can say “weak-willed,” and, of course, memory suffers. The man talked on the phone, put down the phone and can not remember what he was talking about.
The hippocampus also regulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, so when it weakens, hormonal control is also impaired. As a result – vegeto – vascular dystonia or panic attacks , that is, on an equal place a person releases hormones of the corticosteroid group.
Moreover, an elevated level of cortisol causes the destruction of synoptic connections between neurons and leads to a decrease in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Than it threatens? The fact is that the prefrontal part of the cerebral cortex is responsible for concentration, decision-making, reasoning and social interaction.
And another important study: cortisol increases the sensitivity of the pleasure center to dopamine. And he, in turn, is responsible for the formation of the conditioned reflex. You have done something, the brain has allocated dopamine, and you feel pleasure. Dopamine, as it were, “tells” us “you’re done, next time you’ll do the same.”
It’s good when such reinforcement goes after the completion of work, gaining a useful skill. But in conditions of imbalance, this can lead to various kinds of dependencies. That is, against a background of long-term stress, a person becomes faster dependent on any psychologically active substances, people, things.
There is a version that prolonged stress can lead to Alzheimer’s disease .
There is another interesting, but not very pleasant observation. At the ends of the chromosomes there are telomeres: this is the defense, which is shortened with age. When telomeres end, the cells cease to divide and die. That is, telomeres directly affect aging and longevity. And, it turns out, stress helps to shorten telomeres. The conclusion suggests itself. Stress contributes to aging of the body. Want to quickly grow old – stress more often.
Well, seriously, 98% of stressful situations are solved in the future.
And if you look back to the past, then confirm it.
Awareness of this fact enables us to calmly accept the situation and find a way out of it.
yoga positions to relieve anxiety
Uttanasana (position of the stork)
Instructions: Standing in the mountain position (tadasana), place both hands on the hips. The feet are spread to the width of the hips. Pressing your feet firmly into the mat, stretch your legs. Inhale, lengthen the spine and, on the exhale, lean forward.
Place your head on a chair or block. Make sure the skin on your forehead is moving down towards your nose. Stay here and breathe.
Benefits: Calms the brain and helps relieve stress. Reduces fatigue and anxiety, relieves headaches and insomnia. Stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips while strengthening the thighs and knees.
Baddha Konasana (butterfly position)
Instructions: Sit on your carpet or against a wall, with your back straight, both legs outstretched in front of you. Be seated on your two ischia.
Exhale, bend your knees, bring your heels as close to your pelvis as possible, then drop your knees to the sides while pressing the two soles of your feet together.
Benefits: This posture relaxes the body and promotes healthy circulation in the pelvis and lower abdomen. It also helps to slow down and deepen breathing.
Instructions: Sit on your carpet, legs on the floor and stretched out in front of you.
Place two blocks behind you, flat and horizontal, so that one block is under your head and the other under your shoulder blades as you lie down.
Place your hands next to you, on each side of your hips.
Inhale, gently squeeze the mat with your hands and on the exhale, lie back on both blocks.
Keep your legs active (tight, bent dowels).
Rest and breathe deeply here for a few minutes.
Benefits: Opens the upper body and chest, frees the spine and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.
Viparita karani (position of the half-candle)
Instructions: Close to a wall, sit on your side, so that it is on your right or left. Place your ischions (buttocks and back of the thighs) against the wall, using your hands as needed to get as close as possible.
Exhale and place your legs against the wall, letting the shoulders and head rest gently on the ground.
Bend your knees and press your soles on the wall. Lift your pelvis and slide a block below your sacrum.
This position should allow you to rest: make sure you are resting on the top of your shoulders and not putting weight on your shoulder blades or your neck.
Benefits: Relieves tired and tense legs and feet. Slowly tightens hamstrings, anterior torso and back of neck. Relieves mild back pain and soothes the mind.
Supta Matsyendrasana (position of torso stretching left and right)
Instructions: Lie on your back, arms outstretched on each side (perpendicular to the body), knees bent.
When exhaling, move your pelvis to the left and drop your knees to the right.
Gently turn your head in the opposite direction to your knees.
If you need a support for your knees, place a block or pillow underneath.
Make sure your head is gently turned in the opposite direction.
Rest and breathe deeply in this position.
Benefits: This position stretches the muscles of the back and glutes. It relaxes the hips and back, allows the spine to stretch and realign. Twisting also promotes blood flow to the abdominal organs, improving the health and function of the entire digestive system.
Shavasana (rest position)
Instructions: Lie on your back, arms along your body and slightly apart, palms up to the sky. The legs are also apart, the feet relaxed, falling on each side to the outside.
Place a pillow or block under your head. Close your eyes gently, relax your face and rest.
Benefits: Calm the brain, relax the body and help relieve stress.
This position allows your body to fully rest and absorb all the benefits of the positions practiced.