It’s Monday morning and you’re about to leave for work, but you can’t stop thinking about how many new messages you’ll find in your inbox, and the client meeting that you haven’t finished preparing for. To top it all off, it takes you 10 precious minutes to find your house keys, which were right in front of you all along.
Situations like this aren’t always a case of bad luck. While a little bit of stress can improve your productivity by giving you motivation and energy,1 and sometimes help you to remember things2, too much stress can have the opposite effect.2
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to harmful situations, or situations that make you feel threatened.3 We all experience stress, but the causes and effects of stress are different for different people.4,5 This means that:
Something you don’t find stressful may be stressful for someone else,
Stress can affect all different parts of your body4
How stress affects the bodyvaries from person to person4
Stress can have physical symptoms, which tend to be easy to notice – you might feel your heart racing or your muscles becoming tense, or you could get an upset stomach. But stress can also have effects on how your brain works, that you won’t necessarily notice – it can lead to racing thoughts, make your thinking seize up, or cause you to think less positively about situations.4
Regardless of how stress affects you, it’s important to make sure that you’re not constantly stressed out. So it’s helpful to find ways to keep stress at bay, to prevent burnout. Making an effort to monitor your stress levels is also useful – you can do this by learning to recognise how stress affects you,4 including the effects it might have on your brain.
What effects can stress have on your brain?
Stress can affect your brain in different ways. It can influence the way you think and behave, and this can be affected by your personality.4 Here are some of the more common effects that many people will experience when they are stressed.
Having racing thoughts4
Being unable to focus or quiet your mind4
Experiencing brain fog (lack of mental clarity)4
Being forgetful or disorganised4
Exercising poor judgement4
Feeling overwhelmed4 or pessimistic4
Having trouble sleeping4
Procrastinating or avoiding responsibility4
What should you do during stressful periods?
If you notice that stress has started taking a toll on your mind, you can tackle it by taking a twofold approach. This means taking steps to address both the cause and the symptoms.
You can address the cause by:
Taking regular breaks from work7
Getting enough sleep so your brain has recovery time6
Making time to socialise – it’s important!8
Building in time for fun and laughter8
You can address the symptoms by:
Boosting your exercise levels3
Listening to music that you enjoy9
Using relaxation techniques such as relaxed breathing and progressive muscle relaxation9,10
Mastering your thoughts by meditating3,6
Considering a herbal supplement that could help your brain cope better with the impact of stress6, such as Keenmind® or Gincosan ®