Your brain controls everything you do, say and think. As master of your emotions and general wellbeing, your brain can be your best friend or your worst nightmare

Your mind is your greatest asset. That A-grade maths paper? That’s the work of your brain. The goal in your football match? Thank your brain again. The way you made your friend laugh? Yep, you guessed it! Your brain is extremely complex and powerful. Acting as your onboard computer (with a 1 million GB capacity), different parts of your brain provide different functions. When your brain receives a message from your body it tells your body how to react. While you're reading this page your brain is controlling your eyes, information processing, recognising, reasoning, and memorising, while keeping your organs working.

Stress and your brain

There are times when external pressures can have a huge impact on your brain. Whether the pressure is an exam, a toxic friendship, being bullied, or something else, a chemical imbalance can occur in the brain. The brain releases excess cortisol (a stress hormone), which has been linked to memory loss and premature brain ageing. You might feel a sense of panic (think: jittery limbs, sweating, shortness of breath, a faster heart rate, etc.) And you might even get a headache or stomach ache. Stress can manifest itself in many different ways, and you can't eliminate all stress in your life, but there are easy ways to reduce it.

Depression

There are times when feeling stressed, tired, and upset can get the better of you and your mind. Sometimes it might feel that your mind is not on your side – that it’s playing tricks on you or not helping you feel better. Sometimes, feeling sad or worried can be a more permanent feeling, and can turn into depression, which has no single cause but can affect anyone. Sometimes there’s a stressful life trigger, such as divorce, someone close to you dying, or things just not working out at school. Other times it can be because you simply feel like everything is going wrong. And sometimes it can be for no apparent reason at all. Like stress, depression can cause a chemical imbalance and prevent your brain from functioning correctly. Depression is serious, and it’s considered a mental illness. But that doesn't mean it will last forever – there are many ways to treat it.

Controlling your mind

It’s easy to think that your brain can’t be controlled and that there is nothing you can do about chemical imbalances. Not so. If you’re suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, tell a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, or your GP as soon as you can. Stress often comes and goes, usually when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone. So when you're feeling stressed, try these techniques to calm your nerves:

  • Prepare well beforehand. You could be nervous of the unknown. Think of every eventuality and plan it out.
  • Make time to relax and meditate. Sit in a quiet area, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths, in and out.
  • Get a decent night's sleep so you feel rested for the new day.
  • Go for a walk to clear your head and do some thinking.
  • Thinking positively about the things you can change will more likely assist you with overcoming the hurdle. If you don’t get the job you applied for, there will be another.

It’s a fact

Brain signals travel between 1mph and a staggering 268mph. That's faster than a Formula 1 car, which maxes out at a mere 240mph!

Written by Victoria Evans and Jane Bianchi of Teen Health Guide, and edited by Dr William Swallow MBChB, DRCOG, MRCGP
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