Stress is the health epidemic of this century according to the World Health Organisation. Discover how it affects your brain, the body, memory, and sleep with these TED videos.
Once thought to be an affliction of the overly sensitive, stress has finally garnered the attention it deserves: a factor that can affect anyone and puts health at risk. Stress induces a cascade of chemical events in the body that is now known to disrupt everything from your digestion to your sleep, and even blood glucose levels.
Table of contents
- How stress influences the brain
- Food and the human brain
- Stress affects your memory
- How to get a good night’s sleep
- Stress and the whole body
- How to overcome insomnia
Atlas tests don't check for stress levels, but we recognise it as a factor that can impact everyone’s health and wellbeing. We even take steps as a company to help staff manage stress with evidence-based strategies like gym access (exercise), microbiome testing (nutrition and the gut-brain axis), team sports events, and flexible working (we’re not tied to our desks).
And we all have our own little add-ons to help manage the vagaries of daily life. If you follow us on instagram, you’ve been admiring the work of Asya, our social media manager who’s started meditating and clocked up 20 hours of mindfulness so far!
Our CEO, Sergey Musienko, offloads the stresses of managing a company with karaoke and long-boarding. We acknowledge that hearing him belt out a tune by Good Charlotte might not do much for the stress levels of those around him, but it's a stress-relieving hobby that brings him joy nonetheless. More of us should try it.
You won’t find the author of this post on social media, but you might find her in a park mouthing the words to Taylor Swift as she pounds the pavement after an intense session of desk-bound typing. Why? Because sports is also an excellent stress reliever that comes with an endorphin dump of happiness-boosting chemicals.
We find looking at kittens to be a very soothing activity
Others, like our customer care guru (arguably an emotionally taxing job at any company), Wolfgang, finds solace in a strong community of family and friends, which is also a science-backed stress reliever - putting evidence behind the old adage: “A burden shared is a burden halved”.
Mindfulness, the pursuit of enjoyable hobbies, exercise, and community are just a few examples of proven ways to mitigate the effects of stress in our modern societies. However, as Atlas employees, we are steeped like teabags in health science from dawn until dusk, and that gives us a head start in tackling this modern-day epidemic.
For most, stress might still seem like an elusive term, and its consequences may not be so obvious. So, in celebration of Stress Awareness Week 2019, we’re bringing you six short videos about stress by TED: ideas worth spreading to help you understand how it can infiltrate many different facets of your life.
1. How stress affects your brain
By Madhumita Murgia for Ted Ed
The brain is a fascinating organ that runs the day-to-day operations, from conscious thought to digestion, using a variety of inputs like sight, sound, smell, and sense to detect threats in your environment. This epicentre of action is also where learning and memory happen, and stress can affect that too.
2. How the food you eat affects your brain
By Mia Nacamulli for Ted Ed
The human brain is nearly 60% fat, and about 60% of its energy is provided by glucose. Cutting food groups and loading up on others can put strain on your metabolism that is responsible for delivering nutrients to the right places - like building materials and energy to maintain brain function at optimal power.
3. The surprising link between stress and memory
By Elizabeth Cox for Ted Ed
It’s not unusual to have brain fog when you’re under pressure because stress can affect the part of your brain responsible for storing memories. That’s because it triggers the fight-or-flight response and diverts your body’s processes to help you escape or overcome danger (even intangible threats like stern words from your manager).
4. The benefits of a good night’s sleep
By Shai Marcu for Ted Ed
The body (and brain) have a clock and it’s easy to disrupt. Sleep is an underestimated weapon against stress that gives your brain time to consolidate memories and clear out the waste products of metabolism. It also allows your body’s organs and tissues to repair from the daily grind.
5. How stress affects your body
By Sharon Bergquist for Ted Ed
Stress diverts the normal functions of your body by creating a cascade of chemical reactions designed to direct resources to your fight-or-flight responses. To do so, it turns off digestion and other basic functions to heighten your reflexes and supply your muscles with additional energy.
6. What causes insomnia?
By Dan Kwartler for Ted Ed
Anywhere from 10–60% of adults in countries around the world report symptoms of insomnia, meaning that even at the lower end of the scale, one in ten people has serious problems getting to sleep, but good bedtime hygiene can help.
Stress is a pernicious source of metabolic disruption for adults around the world, affecting sleep, memory, digestion, and more. That’s why we all need strategies to mitigate its effects and enhance our wellbeing.
After all, we can’t get away from stressors at the workplace, in the home, or on public transport, but we can find ways to limit how life affects us. It’s not just about eating right – a good night’s rest, pleasant hobbies, time with loved ones, and exercise are all proven to help.
We find that whimsical puppies also help turn off the stress cycle
Just remember that drastic changes can also be stressful, and moderation is the key to balance. So don’t charge in head first, start slow and build your way up. Small changes can do a lot to clear your mind, like putting away electronics an hour before bed, taking a walk on your lunch break, or even joining a knitting circle. It’s up to you!
- Stress at the workplace, Occupational Health, The World Health Organisation
- CY Chang et al., Essential fatty acids and the human brain, 2009
- JM Berg et al., Each organ has its own metabolic profile, Biochemistry 5th edition, 2002
- S Bhaskar et al., Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities, 2016