Stress impairs memory and cognition, even in short bursts. Over time, chronic stress leads to prolonged elevation of the stress hormone cortisol, which is harmful to the brain. Research suggests chronic cortisol exposure is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Many stressors we face in life are unavoidable—a loved one falling ill, losing a job, or your family driving you crazy. Any of these can certainly push our minds and bodies to their limits. Even routine stress like sitting in traffic can push an average person over the edge, depending on the day.

So, what’s the solution if avoiding stress isn’t possible? Stress is part of the human experience, but research suggests you can make yourself more resilient to stress and protect your brain health in the long run.

Staying on top of stress can help keep cortisol levels down and your brain health in check. Here are 3 habits you can incorporate into your daily routine to boost your resiliency and reduce stress:

  1. Exercise. Exposing your body to physical stress in a controlled environment helps it acclimate to handling whatever pressures come your way. Exercise also releases endorphins, chemicals that improve mood and act as natural painkillers.

  2. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a meditation practice involving the careful attention to the present moment with curiosity, openness, and contentment. Research on mindfulness shows a strong connection between the practice and reduction in stress, depression, and anxiety in both healthy and chronically ill people.

  3. Human Connection. Spending time with people who make you happy causes your body to release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. The activities you participate in together, like going for a walk, seeing a movie, or listening to music, can also have profoundly relaxing effects.

Staying on top of stress can help keep cortisol levels down and your brain health in check. So, the next time you find yourself in the face of a stressor, remember to take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and try one of these habits. You’re doing it to calm yourself in the present moment, but also for your future brain health.