How Does Stress Affect the Brain and Nerves?

Stress is something that affects different people in different ways, partly because we all deal with stress differently, partly because a lot of the signs of stress build up over time and we don’t necessarily notice them. Sometimes the first time we pay attention to stress is when it manifests in something major like a stroke or a heart attack.

Ideally, you should be taking steps to reduce the effect of stress before something nasty like that happens.

So what signals should you be looking out for?

Your breathing

nervous systemYou can’t get a bodily function that’s much more essential than breathing. The breaths you take allow your heart to pump blood and oxygen around your body.

If you’re always short of breath or breathing rapidly most of the time, that can be a sign that stress is affecting you.

Do your best to slow down your breathing and take deeper breaths. If you can’t manage that, even for a short period of time, then it’s time to get medical help and advice.

If you only get affected by this occasionally, take the time to figure out what’s causing the stress – talking things through with a friend can often help with that process – and address it before it gets too much.

Your heart

Again, vitally important as I’m sure you know.

Check your blood pressure regularly – there are cheap devices available that you can use and whilst they may not be as accurate as the one your doctor uses, they’re plenty good enough.

Do your checks at a consistent time each day and if you’re worried about your blood pressure, more than once a day. Keep a log so you’ll know what are regular fluctuations and what aren’t.

Aim to adjust your diet so that you eat more healthily and your blood pressure comes to being within the normally accepted range – there are plenty of charts online that you can refer to and most of these have extra guidance on what you can do to adjust your own results.

Your gut

Lots of different signs here – if you regularly stomach pains or if you have problems with your bowels or quite a few other things that are sometimes literally gut reactions.

Stomach ulcers aren’t caused by stress but can be worsened by it.

There are various medicines – over the counter and by prescription – that you can take to ease the short term problems but you need to work with your physician to get to the bottom of the problem. If your “physician” is a search engine, make sure you’re only using reputable sites and get at least one second opinion.


Our nervous system controls the reactions in our body.

Problems with that system can manifest in lots of different ways including too much adrenaline pumping around us as well as other things such as fatigue.

If friends comment that you’re not your normal self or you recognize that things aren’t the way they were – not just because you’re older than the last time you took a good hard look at yourself – then it could be your nerves that are fraying at the edges as a result of being too stressed.

Your brain

Our brains are part of our overall control system and can be adversely affected by stress.

Hopefully you won’t suffer from a mental breakdown but you need to be aware that this is one of the possibilities of too much stress affecting your brain.

There are lots of warning signs to look out for – if you’re quick to get angry, have less patience than usual, forget things often or make mistakes regularly, these are all signs that your brain is suffering from too much stress.

What can you do?

This could be as simple as taking more time to relax and chill out, maybe with the help of a hypnosis anti-stress MP3.

Or it could be a complete break from your current routine – if you’re not too badly affected, a weekend away could do the trick but if stress has been building up too long then a longer break or even a change of career could be in order.

Eating more healthily will help as will keeping hydrated. And cut down on the alcohol and caffeine and sugar.

Get your blood checked – there are online services that will do this with just a finger prick test.

And, of course, consult your doctor for a personal diagnosis.