How Stress Affects the Brain

Updated: Jun 27

I had practiced the dance sequence hundreds of times. I knew my steps. When the day of the dance performance came I became nervous. My pupils dilated and the sweat beaded up on my face. I wanted to run away and hide. I couldn't breathe. When it was my turn to go on stage the bright lights hit me and I froze. I couldn't remember my dance routine. I made up my own choreography so as I would not just stand there like a dummy.

Acute stress took over my brain's memory center. This wasn't the only stress paralyzed me. It happened again several times on stage when I was giving speeches. Another time it happened in a club to do a stand up comedy bit. It's embarrassing. So why does memory get impaired during acute stress otherwise known as stage fright? And what can you do about it?

Stress impacts memory, mood and increases inflammation to the brain. Stress decreases memory by activating the survival areas of the brain and not leaving enough energy for other areas of the brain such as memory.

Allowing the brain and nervous system time to get used to stress so that it can adapt and grow is the key. That means continuing forward with the stressors but helping the nervous system to adapt to the stress. My top pics: deep breathing and adaptogenic herbs.

Deep breathing helps the person to stop identifying with the stress and to recognize that the mind is a collection of thoughts and programs. The person begins to separate from the situation and realizes he/she is the witness of what is happening rather than being sucked into the scenario as a powerless victim. Deep breathing is a thousands of years old yogic practice that helps modern day stressed individuals become sovereign beings.

One breathing practice is to focus on deeply breathing particularly inhaling for 6 counts and exhaling for 4 counts. Then after 3 minutes holding the breath for one minute after slightly exhaling. This can be repeated for up to three rounds. This should only be done lying down or seated and can cause lightheadedness so caution is warranted.

Adaptogenic herbs help to naturally increase the body's resistance to stress, according to a Russian scientist LV Nazarev in 1947. Some adaptogens include Reishi mushroom, Panax ginseng, Tulsi, and He Shou Wu.

Reishi mushroom is one of the most widely studied herbs. Reishi is excellent to counter the effects of stimulants like coffee, chocolate and green tea as it is anti-stress and anti-stimulant. It is one of the safest herbs and non-toxic.

Panax ginseng is considered the king of herbs. It is considered a powerful adaptogen. It is recommended to use ginseng that is at least seven years old to gain its tonic activity. If you purchase younger ginseng it will have stimulating properties.

Tulsi (or Holy Basil) is an Ayurvedic adaptogen and tonic herb. It protects the brain, nervous system and respiratory systems. It has been used for thousands of years.

He Shou Wu, a Chinese Taoist root herb is an important adaptogenic herb that strengthens the kidneys and adrenals.

Stress is part of life but it doesn't have to rule you. You can practice lifestyle habits that help you gain control and feel like you are in the drivers seat. Deep breathing and adaptogens help significantly reduce the effects of stress.

To learn how to let go of stress that has been built up from stuck stale negative emotions that have been holding you back despite every attempt to let them go get my FREE VIDEO The Stress Files. Go to


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Please note that for legal reasons we cannot give out medical advice. 

Consult a skilled, licensed health practitioner for diagnosis and treatments of disease & ailments.

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