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Chronic Stress and Your Brain




Chronic stress has been associated with negative consequences for brain health. Research shows that chronic stress may reduce neuroplasticity (needed for learning and memory) and neuroprotective factors such as BDNF, as well as increase connectivity within the limbic system (a region associated with anxiety and fear). Chronic stress can contribute to low mood, anxiety, poor mental performance, and fatigue. It can lead to burnout.


Managing our stress response so that we can down regulate our nervous system after a heightened response keeps our nervous system in balance.


Evidence-based strategies to reduce stress:


Nutrition Advice:


- Nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods most of the time

- Adequate non-processed protein

- non-human modified healthy fatty acids

- colourful veggies and fruit

- Moderated caffeine and sugar intake

- Addressing key nutrient deficiencies


Key Nutrients best found in wholefoods that help with stress:


- B vitamins

- Omega-3 fatty acids

- Vitamin C

- Coenzyme Q10

- Amino acids

- Glutamine

- Zinc

- Iron

- Folate

- Magnesium

- electrolytes


Lifestyle advice


- Adequate sleep quantity and quality

- Regular movement/exercise that is moderated for your needs

- Mindfulness practice (e.g. meditation)

- Having boundaries

- Slow breathing practice (e.g. box breathing)

- Spending time in nature and natural light

- Building positive supportive social connections

- Avoiding or minimising alcohol intake - alcohol is a common tool used to ‘reduce stress’, however, evidence shows that it actually lowers your psychological and physiological resilience to stress in the long run.

- Seeking professional help from a counsellor or clinical psychologist to address underlying trauma and/or cognitive patterning that may be contributing to your stress response.

- Addressing digestive disturbances


There are also some herbs that can help with stress.


**Please see your primary medical healthcare practitioner and a qualified medical herbalist before taking herbal medicine as they may be contraindicated and/or interact with some medications.


References:


(Sarris & Wardle, 2019)

DOI: 10.1016/bs.irn.2020.01.001

DOI: 10.1038/s41380-019-0615-x

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