We already know that stress causes your cerebral cortex to begin a process that results in the release of chemicals to prepare your body to handle danger. But what else goes on in your brain when you are under too much stress?
At first, you think more clearly and respond more quickly. But after you've reached your stress tolerance point, your brain begins to malfunction. You forget things. You lose things. You can't concentrate. You lose your willpower and indulge in bad habits like drinking, smoking, or eating too much.
The production of the chemicals from the stress response that make the brain react more quickly and think more sharply are directly related to the depletion of others that, under too much stress, keep you from thinking effectively or reacting quickly.
At first, the answers to the test were coming to you without hesitation. However, three hours into the test and you can barely remember which end of the pencil you are supposed to use to fill in those endless little circles. To keep your brain working at its optimal level on a daily basis, you can't allow stress to overwhelm your circuits!
Many people in their forties and fifties begin to experience increased forgetfulness and fear they are developing Alzheimer's disease. In most cases, increased forgetfulness is actually linked to stress, which is often at its peak for those parenting teenagers and experiencing career and relationship changes.