Chronic stress is pretty commonplace these days. We live in a very tense age and seem almost to thrive on stress. Although many things can cause stress, one common stressor is money. Financial anxiety seems to be at an almost epidemic level.
Stress has an impact on all areas of your life, including your health. In fact, a recent study states that the impact of stress on the brain is very worrisome.
The stress response
The stress response is what is known as fight or flight. The human body is designed to respond biochemically to stress to preserve major organs and flee a difficult situation. An example would be if a bear were chasing you.
This response is great in the short term to respond to acute levels of stress in our lives. However, if we stay anxious for long periods of time, our body remains in fight or flight mode, and this is where the real trouble begins.
What happens during chronic stress
When the stress hormone cortisol is released in large amounts, it binds to receptors inside the cytoplasm, which in turn goes through a reaction that releases calcium. With more and more calcium being released, the neurons fire more and more quickly, causing the cells to die in a rather odd “death by excitement.”
In addition to the cortisol release being affected, high stressor amounts create differences in gray matter (the overseer of computing, thinking, and basic decision making) versus white matter (which speeds the flow of electrical signals between neurons and brain regions), and the size and connectivity of the amygdala. In short, chronic stress hurts your brain and your brain function.
Financial worry causes chronic stress and reduces brain function
If you have financial stress affecting you on a daily basis, it can quickly turn into chronic stress. Little things like being behind on bills, owing lots of money, not making enough money etc… can all cause anxiety that leads to chronic stress.
Stress can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and weight gain. But, what happens inside the brain, where the action is taking place? With the neurons dying, the first area of your mind to be affected is the Hippocampus (fancy word for your memory storage facility).
As the Hippocampus is affected, it causes you to lose the ability to store new memories and also messes up your ability to focus completely.
Getting your finances in order is the first step
The first and most important step is to get your finances in order. Start with organizing, create a budget or hire a professional to help you make sense of your financial woes. Once you have a plan, a great deal of the ongoing stress will be reduced. This will free up your brain for productive and creative efforts.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore daily stressors that lead to chronic stressors that ultimately damage your brain and dramatically reduce your quality of life.