The relationship between chronic stress, brain fog, and meditation

Conquering Cognitions
Image by Maddy Mazur from Pixabay

We demand a lot from our brain by constantly asking it to process, organize, and retrieve information. Our brain works long hours with no breaks. Even during sleep, it is busy.

When we are under stress, our brain works even harder, and sometimes it starts to struggle.

Many people, myself included, are experiencing poor concentration, increased distraction, and difficulty remembering things these days.

We are stressed, and this has created symptoms often referred to as brain fog.

This Is Your Brain on Stress

Stress, especially chronic stress like we have experienced in the last two years, is not helpful to our brain functioning.

This article from Harvard Health discusses the role of chronic stress in cognitive health. In brief, when we are stressed, the amygdala, a region of the brain involved in our “fight or flight” response, takes over. We focus most of our brainpower on managing or surviving stressful events.

In the short term, this is not problematic. However, with chronic stress, the prolonged taking of resources from one area of the brain to another can lead to difficulties.

When one part of the brain is working especially hard, there is less energy for other areas, such as those devoted to memory consolidation and complex thought.

How Can We Lift the Fog?

If chronic stress impacts our cognitive functioning, then it would be great if we could completely alleviate chronic stress from our life. Unfortunately, this is impossible in the world we live in, so we must focus on managing the stress.

There are many ways to manage stress including exercising, talking to a friend, journaling, gardening, or watching TV. These are all helpful, but sometimes we need to add more to our self-care routine.

Meditation might be the perfect addition to your self-care toolbox, especially if you feel more distracted and forgetful these days. Meditation is a great stress management tool that also has cognitive benefits.
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay

Kirtan Kriya Meditation

A review of research found that meditation can reduce some of the factors that age our brain. An especially beneficial meditation technique for cognitive enhancement is the Kirtan Kriya (KK) yoga/meditation practice.

This technique is a multisensory exercise that involves chanting and finger movements. KK has been found to increase cerebral blood flow in the brain, and people who use this technique experience improved memory performance and diminished loss of brain volume.

Additionally, Kirtan Kriya meditation decreases depression, improves sleep, and enhances overall well-being. It is a great multi-purpose tool.

The practice of Kirtan Kriya uses the chants “Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa” while your thumbs touch each of your four fingers in sequence starting with the index finger. The finger movements always go forward, never backward.

The cognitive benefits of this technique are seen with just 12 minutes a day.

For the 12 minute practice, you start with 2 minutes of saying the chant out loud, then move to 2 minutes of whispering, then 4 minutes of silence while maintaining the finger movements the entire time. After the 4 minutes of silence, you return to 2 minutes of whisper chanting and finish with 2 minutes of out-loud chanting.

A helpful step-by-step written guide to this practice is available here.

Try this YouTube video if you prefer to listen to a guided Kirtan Kriya meditation exercise.

Final Thoughts

Chronic stress is taking a toll on our brains.

Daily stress management is vital in protecting our brain health, and a particularly beneficial tool for managing both stress and brain health is meditation.

In just 12 minutes a day, you can exercise your brain with Kirtan Kriya meditation. When you give your tired brain a boost with meditation, it can help lift the fog.

This article is for educational purposes only, not as a substitute for therapy or other medical treatment. I am a psychologist, but I am not your psychologist. You can find a therapist in your local area here.

Please follow me for more articles on healthy living, self-care, and personal growth. This article was originally published on Medium.

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Jill is a clinical psychologist, PsyD. She has extensive experience treating anxiety, depression, and trauma. Jill writes about personal growth, self-care, and healthy relationships. She is also an outdoor enthusiast, museum lover, and runner.

Colorado Springs, CO

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