How Stress Affects Your Brain

From test anxiety to Alzheimer's, releasing stress hormones can seriously affect your brain.

Six years ago, a student came to work with me to improve his sports performance. After a couple of weeks, he asked me if Pressure-Free tools help with school also. Apparently his grades were not so good (really not good!), but by using the tools, he was reducing his test anxiety, and was experiencing A’s and B’s. This year, he is graduating with honors and heading off to college in the fall. He has also won numerous awards for his sports. I wonder where he would be today if he hadn’t learn how to stop his anxiety?

Triggering the fight, flight or freeze stress response causes great damage to our brain. Here are just a few consequences:

  1. The first flood of hormones (catecholamines) shuts down your cortex, impairing your ability to think and remember and your ability to make decisions. That’s why, if you get anxious before any sort of test, it can be difficult for you to access the information you studied. It also explains why you will say and do things you later regret, because you were acting to protect yourself from attack rather than respond rationally.
  2. These stress hormones weaken the neurons so that the slightest change in blood pressure causes them to die, build plaque. Do this many times a day, and you begin to permanently affect your memory, which can lead to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  3. The second flood of hormones, gluco-corticoids, can make you feel anxious. Feeling anxious for no reason can be unnerving and cause you to release the stress hormones all over again, causing chronic anxiety.

The good news is that by using Pressure-Free tools religiously, moment-by-moment, you can condition your brain to choose healthier responses, and stop the release of these nasty hormones. The brain is very resilient and it can rejuvenate. The simple scaffolding that makes the shape of the neurons is replaced every 4-10 seconds, which means that as we begin creating a more positive chemical environment through stopping the release of hormones, your ability to think, remember and make decisions can significantly improve!

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