Your Brain on Stress


There it is, that six letter word. We can't seem to get enough of it. It appears out of nowhere and follows us everywhere. It makes us sick, tired and unhappy. Not only that, it robs us of our memories. 

Did you know that cortisol (the hormone that's released when we're under stress) kills brain cells in the hippocampus? That's the part of your brain responsible for memories of past events. If that wasn't enough, there's strong evidence showing that chronic stress causes premature brain aging. 

I'm pretty sure I need to keep as many brain cells as I can. Yes, I'd rather forget that I binged on karaoke at my last birthday party but I would like to remember my aniversary trip to Hawaii. 

Stress and overwhelm make me want to go "where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops" but why can't I? Better yet, "how can I"? 

When deadlines are looming I don't have an hour to exercise or get a massage but there are some simple techniques that help me relax and regroup. Try these quick and effective stress busters for yourself. You might save a memory or two and even get a little closer to that rainbow.


1. Abdominal Breathing: With one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, take a slow, deep breath in through your nose making sure the diaphragm, not the chest inflates. Imagine your belly is a balloon inflating as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat for 1-10 minutes. For longer lasting results do this for 10 minutes a day.




2. Body Scan: With both feet on the floor,close your eyes and focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group for 2-3 seconds each. Begin with your face, eyes and jaw then move to your arms, hands and fingers, chest and stomach. Relax your back and buttocks, thighs, calves, feet and toes. Maintain slow, deep breaths throughout this exercise.




3. Minicise: Step away from your desk and take a brisk walk, quick run or sprint up and down the stairs.