stress and mental health

The Connection Between Stress and Mental Health

Are you feeling stressed lately?

While normal levels of stress can actually be healthy, higher levels of stress can have a profound impact on your mental health and may even lead to an anxiety disorder. If you’re feeling higher levels of stress, it’s important you understand how it impacts your mind and body and take action to reduce stress.

In this article, you’ll learn about the connection between stress and mental health and discover how to manage stress levels and take care of your mental health.

The Connection Between Stress and Mental Health

The stress that you experience every day is a good thing. It raises your alertness and helps you be more attentive to potential dangers. Stress can help you avoid negative events or situations that may put your life or lifestyle at risk, as well as make it possible for you to move away from them before they become deadly.

Acute stress is not that bad for you. If you see a tree falling towards you, your brain notifies you that it is in your best interest to get away from the tree as soon as possible. Your feet run, and you seek safety. Believe it or not, stress can make a person resilient and even help child development. Stress can be a basic survival tool when it appears in lower levels. 

When stress becomes unchecked, it has the potential to wreak havoc on the body and disrupt a person’s emotional and physical well-being in numerous ways. Different types of stress can create long-term damage to a person’s mental health if not dealt with immediately.

Chronic stress is a form of tension that recurs no matter how hard you try to avoid it. It comes back even when you don’t want it to. You may have been traumatized in your life, and your brain keeps recalling this traumatic event over and over because of chronic stress. This ongoing source of anxiety taxes your mind and body.

The American Psychological Association reports there are many effects of stress that are unhealthy for both our bodies and brains, including the following:

  • Digestion problems. You may have a nervous feeling that can quickly become more unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Fatigue leaves you feeling tired and depressed when you should be feeling healthy and energetic.
  • Addictive behaviors such as overeating or abusing substances are often used to cope. 
  • Weight gain happens when too much of the cortisol stress hormone is released, creating that all too familiar belly fat. On the other hand, stress can cause people to worry so much that they lose their appetites altogether, leading to unhealthy weight loss. Weight changes lead to mood changes and mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety. They may lead to eating disorders.
  • Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released when you are tense. Even if you are on a diet, cortisol may make you gain weight. Cortisol directly links to a person’s mental health, can lead to dementia, and can even destroy the body’s ability to fight infectious diseases. People suffering from conditions such as depression have been found to have higher levels of cortisol in their symptoms. 

When you feel bad physically, you feel bad mentally, and vice versa. Because stress influences mental and physical health, it’s essential to learn how to control stress now. Otherwise, it could lead to the development of new conditions.

The Hippocampus

Want to know why you can easily forget names or reasons you entered a room? Stress causes memory loss. You aren’t able to remember things because you are stressed. When your mind is stressed, it can lose its memories and become muddled. The hippocampus may be damaged by stress. This is where all of your memory is kept. The more stressed out your brain is, the more damage it can do to the hippocampus.

Inflammation

Headache is a common symptom of brain inflammation, and it’s not just a throbbing sensation in your head. Various physical and mental symptoms can result from this condition. Inflammation is a defense system that helps our body fight infections and diseases. Stress causes your brain to think it is constantly in need of defense. Therefore, it produces inflammation and sends it out to destroy the enemy who doesn’t exist.

Anti-inflammatory lifestyles are the key to reducing inflammation in the brain. You can avoid depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Changes Brain Chemistry

Those good chemicals, the neurotransmitters that make us feel good, get depleted when you have too much stress in your life. Dopamine and Serotonin are the two main feel-good chemicals you have. As your reserves of endorphins and serotonin become depleted, you begin to feel sad, tired, unenthusiastic, and apathetic about things you used to like doing.

There is a direct link between stress on the brain and how it depletes neurotransmitters. The results are depression, anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, and even substance abuse.

Manage Your Stress For Positive Mental Health

You can do specific things to reduce stress and improve your mental health. Below are some tips you can implement today:

  • Exercise has been proved to reduce stress. It offers several physical and mental advantages. You do not have to run a marathon to get some exercise. A little activity every day might help you relax and produce endorphins, which make you feel good. As an adult, you may still get pleasure from doing something enjoyable. Do anything that makes you laugh. Stress is reduced by laughter. It’s critical to make time for something entertaining if you want to enhance your health.
  • Meditation and praying can aid in the reduction of stress. Meditation allows you to silence the mental cacophony that occurs when overworked and under pressure to finish tasks.
  • Adopt a healthy diet. Neurotransmitters that make us feel good are found in our gut, what you eat matters, eat foods that are healthy and trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. If you only hang out with people who are stressed, you are going to feel stressed. Until you get better at reducing stress, limit your time in high-stress situations and around high-stress friends and family members.

Treatment to Reduce Stress

Joining a treatment program that offers anxiety treatment or attending a support group can significantly reduce stress and improve your mental health. You can learn healthy coping tools like deep breathing and meditation through behavioral therapies. You can also get feedback from peers who understand what you are going through. If stress is negatively impacting any area of your life, give us a call to hear our solutions.