Stress can have profound effects on our cognitive function, from difficulties with memory and attention to poor decision-making.
Stress is an inevitable part of modern life, and it can have profound effects on our cognitive function.
From difficulties with memory and attention to poor decision-making, stress can interfere with our ability to perform even the most basic mental tasks.
Recent research has shed new light on how stress affects the brain, and the results are concerning. One study found that chronic stress can lead to a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory and learning.
Another new study that was published in JAMA Network Open suggests that people who are under a lot of stress may have cognitive function problems that affect their memory, focus and learning capacity.
Further information provided by the study’s authors revealed that “participants with elevated levels of stress were more likely to have uncontrolled CVD risk factors and lifestyle factors (including physical inactivity, obesity and smoking.)”
However, the study participants were still 37% more likely to have cognitive problems even after adjusting these factors.
The fact that stress has been demonstrated to be a modifiable risk factor for a number of types of dementia, including the most prevalent type, Alzheimer’s disease, led the researchers to believe that it is crucial to investigate the connection between stress and cognition.
Other studies have shown that stress can interfere with the communication between brain cells, making it harder for different parts of the brain to work together. This can lead to problems with attention, decision-making and emotional regulation.
The impact of stress on cognitive functioning is not limited to individuals experiencing chronic stress; even acute stress, such as the stress of an upcoming exam or job interview, can have a significant impact on our ability to think clearly and make good decisions.
The effects of stress on cognitive function are not limited to adults.
Children who experience chronic stress, such as those living in poverty or experiencing abuse, have been shown to have smaller prefrontal cortexes, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control.
What can be done to mitigate the effects of stress on cognitive function?
One solution is to reduce stress levels through mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or yoga. Exercise, getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet can also help to reduce stress levels.
In addition, it is important to seek out social support from friends and family. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can help to relieve stress and provide perspective on difficult situations.
It is also important to recognise the signs of chronic stress and seek professional help when necessary.
A therapist or mental health professional can provide tools and strategies to manage stress and prevent its negative effects on the cognitive function.