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The Neurotherapy Clinic Victoria

Yarra Ranges Counselling

Effects of chronic workplace stress on the brain.

Chronic workplace stress has been linked to various negative health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, impaired immune function, and an increased risk of cancer and heart disease (Stahl, 1994). Research has shown it can also lead to a decrease in brain tissue volumes, particularly in the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, as well as the caudate and putamen (Blix, 2013).

Chronic workplace stress across the research was defined by parameters such as lack of adequate time away from workplace stress; few sequential days off, short or no holiday leave, shift work, or being frequently contacted when away from the workplace. It was also indicated in occupations with high stress workloads, such as long hours, shift work, on call 24-7 environments, workplaces with inadequate staffing or support, occupations with office politics, or toxic cultures.

These types of chronic stress were demonstrated to impact cognitive function, affecting prospective memory, speed, and complex working memory (Eskildsen, 2015), with some severe cases reporting ‘blacking out’ to entire conversations or meetings.  The stress response involves changes in neurochemical, neuroendocrine, and immune systems, influenced by both environmental and genetic factors (Cannizzaro, 2019). Brain imaging of persons suffering this type of stress indicated structural changes in the brain, such as cortical thinning and shifts in subcortical volumes (Savic, 2015). These changes may also impair emotional regulation and disrupt functional connectivity in the brain (Golkar, 2014), and many were deemed irreversible. Thankfully many of the symptoms and changes were alleviated with a significant respite period, and the introduction of neurotherapy was shown to speed this healing up.

Neurofeedback and Neurostimulation have shown promise in addressing various psychological and neurological conditions. Its impact on common symptoms of workplace stress, such as anxiety, depression, cognitive impairments, and sleep disturbances, can be significant based on the principles of neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to learn from feedback. Here’s how neurotherapy might impact these symptoms:

Anxiety Reduction: Workplace stress often manifests as anxiety, which has a direct influence on memory, emotional regulation, sleep, and focus. Neurotherapy can help individuals learn to modulate their brain activity associated with anxiety through feedback or assist with resetting the sympathetic response through stimulation. By training the brain to return to and maintain a calm and focused state, individuals can reduce their anxiety levels, leading to improved well-being (Hammond, 2005).

Depressive Symptoms: Depression can be a severe consequence of chronic workplace stress. Neurotherapy training has been utilised to improve depressive symptoms (Baehr, Rosenfeld, & Baehr, 2001). This improvement may result in better mood regulation, increased motivation, and improved cognitive functioning. It should be noted that some forms of depression are treatment resistive, and this includes the effects of neurotherapy.

 

Workplace stress long hours
frequent contact when away from workplace

Cognitive: Stress impairs cognitive functions such as memory, attention and focus, emotional regulation, and executive functioning. Neurotherapy seeks to address the underlying causes of the dysregulation causing these symptoms, and a knowledgeable practitioner can identify specific regions of the brain the dysregulation is occuring. Training the brain to optimize its activity in these areas can lead to improvements in cognitive performance, making it easier to manage work tasks and reduce the cognitive load of stress (Vernon, 2005).

Sleep Quality Improvement: Poor sleep is a common symptom of workplace stress, which in turn can exacerbate stress, creating a vicious cycle. Neurotherapy can help regulate the brain patterns associated with the disruptions to sleep, often tied to anxiety and vigilance. Improving sleep quality can lead to better stress management, reduced fatigue, and improved overall health (Cortoos, De Valck, Arns, Breteler, & Cluydts, 2010).

 

 

If you are suffering from symptoms associated with chronic stress, whether from the workplace or home, why not contact us to discuss your needs. Click here to contact us.