Life's enjoymentMost of us know that chronic stress isn’t good for us and that it can be damaging to our physical and mental health. Many studies show the negative impact of stress on physical health such as blood pressure, immune functioning, and heart disease etc, but few address the effects on mental health. Increasingly however, studies are showing that chronic stress has a negative effect on brain functioning, leading to changes that make us more vulnerable to difficulties such as depression, addiction, memory loss, learning difficulties as well as a range of others.

We also know that we should be exercising, eating better and relaxing more to help ourselves deal with the impact of stress. But most of us do not, citing lack of time and energy as the main reasons. We are living in times of rapid change and unpredictability, most of which is out of our personal control. Each of these factors have been shown to contribute to experiencing stress, and we are now experiencing all three together. The key message, however, is that it is not the once off stressful events that are the most problematic, but the cumulative effects of daily stressors that do the most damage. It is therefore so important that we prioritize our physical and mental health and make lasting changes to protect ourselves against the damaging effects of long term stress. Our relatively new understanding of the plasticity of the brain allows us to make changes that can reverse the damage that has already been done. However, prevention is better than cure and making changes to protect the body and brain against damage is worth investing time and energy in.

I am going to be writing a series of blog posts on the topic of stress in the hope that more of an understanding of the mechanisms that make stress damaging as well as ways to combat this damage, will empower you to make changes in your lives to build resilience and protect against the damaging effects of long term exposure to stress.