So what should you do if you are suffering from chronic stress? Luckily there are ways to tackle it. The UK Government Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing has recommended evidenced-based ways to mental wellbeing.
We know, for example, that exercise has established benefits against chronic stress. Exercise tackles inflammation by leading to an anti-inflammatory response. In addition, exercise increases neurogenesis – the production of new brain cells – in important areas, such as the hippocampus. It also improves your mood, your cognition and your physical health.
Another key way to beat stress involves connecting with people around you, such as family, friends and neighbours. When you are under stress, relaxing and interacting with friends and family will distract you and help reduce the feelings of stress.
Learning may be a less obvious method. Education leads to a cognitive reserve – a stockpile of thinking abilities – which provides some protection when we have negative life events. In fact, we know that people are less likely to suffer from depression and problems in cognition if they have better cognitive reserve.
Other methods include mindfulness, allowing us to take notice and be curious of the world around us and spend time in the moment. Giving is another – volunteering or donating to a charity activates the reward system in your brain and promotes positive feelings about life.
Importantly, when you experience chronic stress, do not wait and let things get the better of you. Early detection and early effective treatment is the key to a good outcome and good wellbeing. Remember to act in a holistic manner to improve your mood, your thinking and your physical health.
And you don’t have to wait until you are overwhelmed with stress. Ultimately, it is important that we learn from an early age to keep our brain fit throughout our whole life course.