Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job or home, or serious/chronic illness can actually affect the grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This region of the brain is responsible for self-control, emotions and physiological functions such as proper glucose and insulin levels. Stressors can affect our mood centers and skew our ability to regulate pleasure and reward. Prolonged exposure to stress can actually shrink the brain. Brain volumes in the mood centers are linked to depression and anxiety. People who have brain shrinkage seem to be more vulnerable when faced with a life trauma or sudden adverse event as the effects are magnified and their ability to cope is compromised.
Brain-enhancing activities to combat stress and make our brains more resilient to stress are recommended to diffuse some of the potentially harmful effects stress can have on the brain. Some valuable stress relievers include exercise, meditation, taking a daily dose of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid-an Omega 3 fatty acid) and maintaining strong emotional relationships.