According to the American Psychological Association, chronic mental and emotional stress is detrimental to your mental health. An extended period of exhibiting symptoms of stress, mental and emotional distress is very debilitating. The youngest generation is the most susceptible to life-threatening mental conditions.

Stress Causes Depression

Good stress helps you to rewire your brain; the stress helps your brain to stay alert. However, elevated levels of stress are the major cause of depression.  Heightened symptoms of stress lead to a disturbance in the normal level of the stress hormone, cortisol.  High levels of cortisol stimulate the hypothalamus to lower serotonin and dopamine levels in the blood.

The release of abnormal cortisol levels interferes with the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling memory, thinking, and learning. Such a scenario can be overwhelming, leading to the behavior of:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Social isolation
  • Excessive crying
  • Discontent
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Sadness

Poor Memory Retention

Stressful emotional and mental setbacks hinder the brain from forming fresh memories. Chronic stress also prevents the efficient retrieval of old memories. It is very hard to focus on forming new memories when facing stressful events.

Elevated levels of cortisol hormone lead to a decline in short-term memories. Stress will also influence the type of memories your mind can form. Memory encoding during stressful events is often subjective and unreliable.

Change in Social Behavior

Change in Social Behavior

The hormonal change in your brain caused by chronic stress also influences your behavior. When undergoing heightened levels of stress, individuals tend to exhibit hostile behaviors, irritability and anti-social behavior.  Structural and functional changes of the brain due to stressful events often lead to changes in behavior.

The brain structure’s disorientation results in the formation of excess myelin sheath in the brain’s parts. Alteration in the brain’s chemical and physical properties interferes with various communication processes of the brain.

Excessive alcohol and drug use are warning signs of a change in social behavior. People often resort to aggressive behavior to depress symptoms of stress, which ends up deteriorating the situation. Management of destructive behavior is essential to avoid incidences such as suicide.

Psychological Problems

Chronic stress causes a disturbance in normal psychological behavior. Heightened levels of stress lead to strains in problem-solving, difficulty in sleeping and persistent thoughts.  The cortisol hormone adversely affects your motivation level and mental agility.

Stress Changes the Brain Structure

Chronic stress leads to either reversible or irreversible structural change of the brain. The brain mainly compromises the white matter and gray matter; the gray matter controls most aspects of decision-making and problem-solving capabilities. The white matter, on the other hand, is concerned with communication capabilities.

Chemical disturbances and excess myelin production lead to disorientation in the balance of the white and gray matter. Extended periods of stress lead to a brain that is vulnerable and exposed. The vulnerability is detrimental and leads to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Stress Leads to a Diminishing State of the Brain

The brain contains a part known as the hippocampus, which is essential in memory, learning and emotions. The part is also essential in the development of new brain cells in a process known as neurogenesis. Stressors may not directly affect new cells’ formation, but they decrease the new cells’ probability of surviving.

Chronic stress also leads to shrinking the essential parts of the brain associated with memory and emotions.  Traumatic events such as accidents or the death of a loved one affect the brain’s part associated with moods. Other stressors such as relationship stress and job tend to affect your emotions.

Stress Leads to Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that affects your sleep patterns. Some of the sleeping disorder symptoms include the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep for enough hours. Insomnia has negative effects on your physical and mental health.

Acute stress may have short-term effects which may resolve after a few days or weeks.  Stressful events such as job retrenchment, divorce and death can disrupt your sleeping patterns. If the symptoms of stress are not managed in the early stages, insomnia may lead to adverse sleeping habits.

How do you Manage Symptoms of Stress?

How do you Manage Symptoms of Stress

Stress management methods are techniques you can incorporate to prevent a negative impact on your mental health. Stress relief methods help in the depressing of adverse symptoms of stress.  Since it is impossible to 100% eradicate external stressors finding methods to manage the symptoms will help cope with the stress factors.

Indulging in Regular Exercise

Aerobics, yoga, or any forms of physical exercise are the best stress relievers. Regular exercises help in the stimulation of the production of feel-good neurotransmitters known as endorphins. The exercises can also help improve your mood, help relax the mind and depress symptoms of stress.  Additionally, it can help in the management of insomnia by helping ease the intensity of stress.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Fruits and foods reach in Vitamins help in the lowering of symptoms of stress in the body. A balanced diet will help lower cortisol and adrenaline hormones in the blood and help boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, and prevent heightened stress levels. Some comfort diets will help in the stimulation of the production of serotonin essential in calming the brain.

Eating occasionally supplies your brain with glucose, which is significant in the functioning of the brain. If you have stabilized levels of glucose in your body, your brain will perform better. A fully functional brain is essential in better memory retention, problem-solving and improved academic performance.

Consider Supplements

Some supplements effectively reduce stress levels and assist in the maintenance of a stable mental balance. Omega 3 and green tea effectively lower stress levels and increase the level of serotonin in the body.  Taking the supplements helps protect your mental health from various adverse effects that may impair your memory and problem-solving capabilities.

Reduction of Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is referred to as a stimulant drink capable of increasing anxiety levels in the body. Caffeine also increases the levels of cortisol levels in the body. It is worth noting that moderated levels of caffeine can help in boosting your mood. However, consuming a high amount of caffeinated drinks for an extended period will increase the symptoms of stress.

Support Groups

After a traumatizing event such as an accident or death of a loved one, recovering from the emotional and mental disturbances is overwhelming. Support groups consolidate people with similar problems. The support group will help people to share experiences and learn how to cope with certain problems.

Support groups help reduce stress levels, learn to cope with external stressors, and connect with other people. The groups bridge the gap between emotional and medical needs. Participation in the groups will lead to the acceptance of traumatic events and learn how to thrive even after the traumatic events. 

Bottom Line

External stressors are part of your life, and it is impossible to completely eradicate them. Chronic mental and emotional stressors often affect your mental health adversely. Heightened levels of stress lead to the production of harmful chemicals, which lead to various mental problems. However, it is possible to effectively manage the symptoms of stress to prevent various mental problems.