Experiencing some stress is part of everyday life, but when it persists over time, it can cause vascular changes and chemical imbalances that are damaging to the brain and other cells in your body. By managing or lowering your stress, you can improve your brain health and reduce your risk of dementia.
Symptoms of chronic stress may include the following:
- Emotional: depression, tension, anxiety, anger, worry, fear
- Physical: headache, fatigue, insomnia, sweating
- Mental: poor concentration, memory loss, indecisiveness, confusion
- Behavioural: fidgeting, overeating, alcohol and drug abuse
If symptoms of stress persist, contact your doctor.
How to reduce stress
- Take personal time for yourself. Exercise, relaxation, entertainment, hobbies and socializing are essential parts of our health and well-being. Everyone needs to find a balance that limits stress and helps maintain optimal health.
- Identify unrealistic expectations and try to accept what cannot be changed.
- Seek and accept support.
- Be prepared – new or unfamiliar situations can create stress and anxiety.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Reduce the harmful effects of stress on your mind and body through meditation, deep breathing, massage or physical exercise. The key is to explore a variety of techniques and find those that work for you.
- For more great ways to take action on brain health, visit our BrainBooster® activity pages.
As my mom’s caregiver, letting go of expectations I had of her – and of myself – has helped reduce stress for both of us. As long as she’s happy, I don’t get caught up in how things should be or how she should behave. I respect my own limitations, too, and make time for myself. Whether it’s reading a book, playing trivia, or petitioning for a national dementia strategy, keeping my brain active helps me cope with the everyday realities of Alzheimer’s.
- Cathy Grand (left), caregiver for her mother Huguette (right)
Note: Your abilities, health and interests should be taken into consideration when choosing brain healthy activities. If you have questions about your own situation, speak to your doctor or health care provider.