Stress :

Stress Can Shrink Your Brain

Samantha Cossick, Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.

There seems to be an endless supply of daily activities to worry about.

A new Yale University study suggests that stress can cause the brain to shrink, leading to decreased brain volume and function.

Researchers from the Yale Stress Center interviewed 103 healthy participants that estimated the degree of stress in their life based on "traumatic" or "recent" occurrences, such as parents divorcing or financial hardships, according to a report first published in the Yale Daily News.

They then compared their answers to images of the participants' brains showing that those with higher levels of cumulative stress had less gray matter, the report states.

This reduced gray matter may make it difficult for people to manage stressful situations in the future but it may also serve as a screening tool to prevent stress-related disorders, the report states.

In Franklin County, residents said they find things to stress and worry about daily, but also try to take positive steps to cope with that stress.

Mark Ziemann, Fayetteville, works as a construction superintendent and said he has stress daily about scheduling, current and future projects, subcontractors showing up on time and other daily activities associated with his job.

Ziemann said he tried to get lots of sleep and eat well in order to combat the stress of his job.

"I smile a lot, too. It's about all I can do," he said. "I try to make it as light as I can."

The effects of stress on his brain and overall health is a concern of Ziemann's, especially since he was diagnosed with heart disease five years ago.

"Twenty years ago, I was out of control and it was eating up my stomach," Ziemann said. "Now, I can handle it a little bit better."

Mary Ellen Clark, a Hawthorne, N.Y., resident who was visiting the area, said the effects of stress on her brain and overall health is also a concern.

Clark said she has dealt with past and ongoing health issues for a while now and takes those into consideration each day. "I try to relax. I go into a room by myself and do something that I like to do away from everybody," she said. F

Shippensburg University junior Halee Crist, Chambersburg, and freshman Jerome Williams, Chambersburg, both agreed that deadlines and exams associated with school are their major source of stress.

The students try to take a variety of approaches, either by themselves or with friends, to deal with that stress, they said.

"I do meditation. I love it," Crist said. "It really helps." As a social work major, Crist is required to participate in a four-week group series. That is how she found out about the college's mindfulness series, which focuses on ways to relax.

Williams said he will sometimes look up Bible passages to encourage him, call his family, meet with Shippensburg Christian fellowship group FUSE: Filled Up, Sent, Equipped, or listen to music.

"I will try to find a song that gets me moving around and dancing," he said.

Samantha Cossick can be reached at and 262-4762 or follow her on Twitter at @SCossickPO.

(c)2012 the Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pa.)

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