Stress and brain plasticity: Rewiring for resilience

Chronic stress can be harmful, causing potential long-term damage, manageable stress, often termed 'eustress,' can enhance neuroplasticity.

Understanding stress and its impact on the body

Let's explore the fascinating connection between stress and the brain's ability to rewire itself for resilience


Understanding stress and its impact on the body

Stress is a common part of life, but have you ever considered its intricate relationship with your body's adaptability? In this article, we delve into the fascinating connection between stress and the brain's ability to rewire itself for resilience.

Science behind the topic

While chronic stress can indeed be harmful, leading to potential long-term damage, it's crucial to acknowledge that not all stress is detrimental. Manageable stress, often referred to as 'eustress,' can actually have a positive impact on brain growth and neuroplasticity. This form of stress triggers the production of neurotrophins, which play a pivotal role in supporting the survival and function of neurons. As a result, it can enhance learning and memory. Moreover, this article sheds light on the vital role of emotional fitness in stress management, contributing to improved cognitive function and overall resilience.

A model of emotional fitness

Since 2018, our collaboration with Shape of Emotion has provided us with valuable insights, leading to the development of an Emotional Fitness model. This model is described as an ongoing journey of deepening self-awareness, tuning into our body and emotions, and becoming more comfortable with vulnerability. It involves building the capacity to tolerate discomfort while finding resourceful ways to respond. Emotional fitness encompasses resilience, grit, and the ability to bounce back after setbacks.

Three maxims of change

Building emotional fitness involves upholding three essential maxims of change:

  1. Personal Choice: It starts with the genuine desire to change. No one can force you to improve your emotional fitness; it must be your decision driven by the recognition of the benefits it brings. It requires commitment and discipline.
  2. Personal Responsibility: Emotional fitness is a personal journey. It's your responsibility to step out of the drama triangle, stop the blame game, and take ownership of your emotional well-being.
  3. Reconnection with the Body: You must be willing to reconnect with your body and relearn the messages it conveys. Your body is a powerful source of emotional insight.

The five pillars of emotional fitness

Thinking: Thinking plays a pivotal role in our emotional well-being. It involves learning, reflection, and self-awareness. In today's information-saturated world, being selective about the content we consume, including reducing exposure to social media, is crucial. Lifelong learning, openness to growth, and embracing vulnerability are also key aspects of thinking.

Questions people often ask

How does stress affect brain plasticity?

Stress, particularly manageable levels known as 'eustress,' can positively impact brain plasticity. It enhances learning and memory by stimulating the production of neurotrophins, which support neuron function.

Can stress rewire your brain?

Yes, stress can rewire the brain. While chronic stress can have negative effects, manageable stress can lead to positive changes, enhancing cognitive abilities and resilience.

What destroys neuroplasticity?

Factors like prolonged chronic stress, lack of mental stimulation, ageing, and certain neurological disorders can negatively impact neuroplasticity.

What are the 3 parts of the brain affected by stress?

The three main parts affected by stress are the amygdala (emotional processing), the hippocampus (memory and learning), and the prefrontal cortex (decision-making and self-control).

Can stress cause permanent brain damage?

Chronic and unmanaged stress has the potential to cause long-term changes in the brain, but with effective stress management and emotional fitness, these effects can often be mitigated.

Nourishing: Our physical health directly impacts our emotional well-being. Nourishing your body with balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep is vital. Additionally, practising self-compassion and being discerning about what you consume through media and screens are essential.

Moving: Our bodies are designed for movement, and this is fundamental for emotional fitness. Exercise helps release hormones and chemicals built up due to stress and fear. Even a few minutes of daily movement can make a significant difference in your emotional well-being.

Relating: Building healthy relationships starts with having a positive relationship with oneself. When your inner world is in harmony, it reflects positively on your external relationships. Connect with friends, family, and even strangers. Genuine connections can uplift your emotional state.

Feeling: Tuning into your body's sensations, reconnecting with your feelings, and developing emotion regulation skills are essential aspects of emotional fitness. It involves being aware of how we tend to bury, avoid, or numb our emotions and finding healthier ways to deal with them.

Take proactive steps


We encourage you to take proactive steps towards understanding your stress levels. Consider utilising tools like 5th Place's complimentary stress test. This article suggests practical approaches aligned with the pillars of emotional fitness, emphasising their benefits for your overall well-being.


In conclusion, stress is a complex phenomenon that impacts our brains and bodies in various ways. Recognizing the importance of emotional fitness in managing stress is key to fostering resilience and cognitive health. By embracing the principles of emotional fitness, you can navigate the challenges of stress with grace and resilience.

About the author

5th Place

5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.

We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.

Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.

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