Stress: be warned, it’s harming you more than you think!

  • Stress
Migraines and stress

Despite the benefits of moderate stress, such as heightened alertness, motivation and energy, being constantly stressed out can result in a range of psychological problems. These can even develop into mental health issues if the stress is persistent: if ill-managed stress becomes chronic, its consequences become more severe. And in today’s world where social media puts on pressures to look good; most of us are working longer hours, often for comparatively less money; and there’s little economic and political stability, more and more of us are feeling constantly stressed. Keep reading to see how YOU could be affected… 

I can’t focus!

Firstly, constant stress can negatively impact our ability to learn. When the brain registers stress, it releases cortisol and adrenaline hormones. If these are being released too often, our brain begins to feel fuzzy in a phenomenon known as ‘brain fog’. This prevents mental clarity and thus our ability to learn effectively. 

My memory is foggy…

At the same time, excessive cortisol levels affect our ability to remember. In fact, it has been argued that stress impacts our memory in a hill shaped curve (known as the Yerkes-Dodson law) with moderate stress helping our cognitive ability to recollect and excessive, prolonged stress damaging it1.So, without effectively managing your stress, you may find yourself struggling to absorb new information or failing to recall what you’ve already learned. 

I’m exhausted…

Like the body, your mind too can become exhausted. Being stressed out for a long period of time can result in mental fatigue- when you feel like you have nothing left to give. This is known as being ‘burnt out’ and can result in a lot of other emotional symptoms such as moodiness, irritability and low motivation. 

I’m not feeling myself…

On a more serious note, being under constant, chronic stress can also increase the risk of developing mental health issues. For example, a study found that prolonged exposure to a stress hormone, cortisol, contributes to the symptoms of depression and worsens mood disorders2. Major depressive disorder has also been linked to high stress levels. 

I can’t stop worrying…

Research has also linked persistently high stress levels with anxiety3. Suffering from anxiety has the potential to greatly reduce your quality of life, it can cause intense feelings of worry, fear and even panic attacks- stress is much more dangerous than you thought! 

I can’t sleep…

It doesn’t stop there… high levels of stress can not only impact your day to but also your quality of sleep. Evidence has been found that prolonged stress can cause chronic insomnia4… and that poor quality sleep can heighten stress levels… a vicious cycle…

But don’t worry… we’ve got your back

Now remember, stress isn’t all bad. In fact, Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University neurobiologist, says ‘Our goal isn’t a life without stress. The idea is to have the right amount of stress. That means stressors are short-lived and manageable’. This means that all you need to do is learn to manage stress effectively. And that’s where you’re in luck… read our article on how to reduce stress to make sure you m aintain a happy and healthy mind!

Bibliography

1 Wirth, M.M. Hormones, stress, and cognition: The effects of glucocorticoids and oxytocin on memory. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1(2), 177-201, June 2015

2-4 Khan, S., & Khan, R.A. Chronic Stress Leads to Anxiety and Depression. Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health, 5(1), 1091, January 2017