top of page


How does stress impact the brain and body and what can you do about it?


When you become stressed there are a variety of things that are going on in your body. One is the hypothalamus is activated in the brain, which controls your bodies homeostasis. The pituitary gland is also activated and works alongside the hypothalamus. When these two are activated the following reactions are taking place in the body: increase in breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, hormone activation, muscle tension and body temperature drops. There is also an inhibition in digestion, sexual behavior and reproduction, growth, tissue repair and responses in the immune and inflammatory systems.  


The adrenal gland also becomes activated during the stress response and releases the following chemicals throughout your body: cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, estrogen, testosterone, and adrenaline. Under brief situations of stress these reactions of the body are normal and help you to survive. However, when stress becomes chronic the chemicals released wreak havoc on the body, i.e. burning out the adrenal glands which lead to fatigue,  and brain cells start to shrink or atrophy which can affect your thinking, long term and short term memory, concentration, and problem solving. In the amygdala (the area responsible for emotions), brain cells can increase in size, leading to an increased and intensified experience of emotions. 


Ways you can manage stress!


  • Practice deep belly breathing

  • Change how you view a situation

  • Set boundaries.

  • Get a massage

  • Do some yoga

  • Do progressive muscle relaxation

  • Exercise

  • Speak with a supportive person

  • Listen to relaxing music

  • Laugh

  • Drink tea

  • Get an acupuncture treatment

  • Write or draw in a journal

  • Play with your pet

  • Take a bath with scented oils

  • Meditate


“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

Can This One Exercise Unlock Your Brain’s Natural Anti-Anxiety Drug?

June 4, 2012 By Ruth Buczynski, PhD


What one exercise can boost feel-good chemicals in your brain while reducing anxiety and improving your mood?

The answer is yoga.


In a study lead by Chris Streeter, MD he and his colleagues from the Boston University School of Medicine found that yoga reduced anxiety, improved mood, and boosted the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. The article can be found in The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

What’s more, to determine the efficacy of yoga compared to walking, they randomly assigned participants to either a yoga group or a walking group. Each group did their respective exercise three times a week for 60 minutes for 12 weeks. Participants’ brains were scanned before and after the 12 week intervention, and anxiety and mood levels were measured throughout the duration of the study.


The results showed that the yoga group experienced significantly greater improvements in mood and anxiety, and higher levels of GABA than the walking group.


What’s special about this study is it’s the first to show that an exercise intervention (yoga) can increase levels of GABA in the brain and also bring about better mood and lower anxiety. It’s encouraging to see brain science validating the therapeutic value of mind-body approaches like yoga.


Anti-anxiety medications work in part by affecting GABA levels in the brain. This study shows we can also do this naturally with yoga.


Yoga is also being used to treat trauma patients at The Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, which was founded by Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

bottom of page