Learn, Share, Grow - How Stress Affects Your Brain

learn share grow

July 31, 2023

Below is a lesson from TED on the effects of stress on your brain, as well as our key learnings.

The Blue Courage team is dedicated to continual learning and growth.  We have adopted a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team called “Learn, Share, Grow”.  We are constantly finding great articles, videos, and readings that have so much learning.  As we learn new and great things, this new knowledge should be shared for everyone to then grow from.

How Tress Affects Your Brain

Madhumita Murgia

Also Watch the Video Here.

Key Learnings:

  • It can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus.
  • Chronic stress, like being overworked or having arguments at home, can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions, right down to the level of your genes.
  • When your brain detects a stressful situation, and releases a hormone called cortisol, which primes your body for instant action.
  • High levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak havoc on your brain. For example, chronic stress increases the activity level and number of neural connections in the amygdala, your brain's fear center.
  • As levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, memories, and stress control, deteriorate. The hippocampus also inhibits the activity of the HPA axis, so when it weakens, so does your ability to control your stress.
  • Cortisol can literally cause your brain to shrink in size. Too much of it results in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain the regulates behaviors like concentration, decision-making, judgement, and social interaction. It also leads to fewer new brain cells being made in the hippocampus. 
  • Chronic stress might make it harder for you to learn and remember things, and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer's disease.
  • The amount of nurturing a mother provides to her baby affects how a baby responds to stress later in life. These are considered epigenetic changes, meaning that they affect which genes are expressed without directly changing the genetic code. The epigenetic changes caused by one single mother can be passed down to many generations after her. In other words, the results of these actions were inheritable.
  • There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your stressed brain. The most powerful weapons are exercise and meditation, which involves breathing deeply and being aware and focused on your surroundings. Both of these activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving your memory.

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