We will all experience stress from time to time. Stress is part of being human, and a little bit of stress is normal and natural. It’s part of our survival, helps keep us alert, and helps us build resilience.
But what happens when our stress goes unchecked?
Both long term and short stress are taxing on the brain. The good news is that there are ways to reduce stress and its impact. Here are 5 ways.
1 Social Connection
Social connection is an essential part of human health – we humans are wired to connect, and how well we feel connected impacts our sense of self, our health – including our brain health. For thousands of years, we know humans have lived in groups and there is a long history of social connection as a basic human need.
Resilience to stress is shown to be greater among those with well-established, positive, social networks. Those chronically lacking positive social contacts are more likely to experience elevated stress and inflammation. Consequently, this can impact the wellbeing of every bodily system, including the brain.
Human interaction helps us form bonds that support brain health – just 10 minutes of daily social interaction increases cognitive performance. Meaningful, satisfying interaction also benefits our memory and reduces risk of dementia by 26%.
Merely living with others does not always provide the right type of social interaction to assure positive cognitive benefits. We need interaction with those with whom we feel comfortable and supported.[1,2]
Reflection: What can you do today to be more engaged with others to enhance your brain health and overall wellbeing?
2 Get Creative
Creative endeavours can be a wonderful distraction from your stressors to give you some headspace during stressful times, keep you occupied, and give you a sense of joy and satisfaction.
Using your creativity helps shift your mood, induces positive health benefits and reduces stress hormones. When you create, you invoke your imagination and this is a productive and constructive use of your mind. As you focus intensely on a creative task, you can achieve the state of “flow,” the term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who describes this state of consciousness as where we feel our best and perform our best. [3, 4]
Reflection: How can you introduce some creativity into your life? It doesn’t have to be about working on a masterpiece, just something you can work on at your own pace that feels meaningful and relaxing to you.
3 Focus On Positivity, Not Happiness
Oftentimes we are encouraged to ‘be happy’ – but we know that when we’re stressed, this can seem like an impossible goal. Instead – we can embrace an optimistic approach to harness the brain-boosting effects of pragmatic positivity.
Where happiness can be thought of as a ‘state’ to be achieved, cultivating an optimistic outlook provides us a ‘stage’, a platform from where we can alter perspective and harness a pro-active attitude.
To increase our endurance against the stressors of life, an optimistic outlook helps us reach for a better-feeling thought, helps us practice appreciation, acceptance of what-is, and project good intentions towards better outcomes. This process can help cultivate greater resilience, feelings of wellbeing and keep our brain on-track than trying to purely achieve ‘happiness’.
Greater optimism and sense of a purpose in life are strong predictors of brain health. 
Reflection: The next time you feel stressed about something, what’s the first optimistic thought that you can conjure to shift your perspective of the situation?
4 Get Enough Sleep
Many people underestimate sleep and its effects on brain health, perceived stress and resilience.
Sleep plays a house-keeping role in the brain, removing toxins and regenerating the brain. When we don’t get enough sleep, the part of our brain that processes emotions goes into overdrive, causing our immediate emotional reactions to intensify. Parts of the brain that communicate with each other to regulate emotional responses are also disrupted. Stress hormones are also increased.
Without enough sleep we enter a fatigue–stress –brain depletion cycle where the situation can feel harder to deal with, so it’s important to look at how much sleep you are getting, or ways to improve your sleep quality. If you have trouble falling asleep due to stress, seeking help for this can help break the cycle.
Researchers have found that attention, memory and executive function can be negatively affected by getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep.
Reflection: How can you make it a priority to ensure you get enough restful sleep? [5, 6]
5 Take A Natural Nootropic Like E2B
A simple supplement is an easy and effective way to help increase our resilience to stress and protect brain health.
Natural nootropics harness the powerful benefits of nature and scientific research to help the brain become more adaptive to stress and offset the negative effects. This is achieved through various mechanisms – increasing brain-derived nootropic factor, improving the health and function of neurons and other brain structures, reducing inflammation, and increasing cerebrovascular circulation. They also positively impact our neurotransmitters and help modulate mood. 
Check out our growing range of brain health products at e2b.com.au/shop
Reflection: What can you use naturally to enhance your brain’s resistance to stress?
Stress is a part of life and sometimes being human is challenging, but we don’t need to let stress go unchecked and deplete our brain health.
Support yourself during stressful times – connect, create, optimise, sleep and supplement your way through, so that you are doing what you can to protect your brain now and for the future, so you can look to brighter days ahead.
Disclaimer: This is a source of information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease. If stress persists, please seek medical assistance.
- The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125010/
- Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive Functioning. Sage Journals 2007. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0146167207310454
- The Link Between Creativity, Cognition, and Creative Drives and Underlying Neural Mechanisms. Front Neural Circuits. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6440443/
- The Pursuit of Happiness. 2018. https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi/
- Lifestyle Choices and Brain Health. Front Med 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6787147/
- The Role of Sleep in Emotional Brain Function. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286245/
- Establishing Natural Nootropics: Recent Molecular Enhancement Influenced by Natural Nootropics. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021479/