Stress is very bad for our health. It’s something we all need to cut out of our lives. Yet despite the many terrible things stress does to the body and mind, we can’t seem to give it up. But a new study is seriously making us rethink our apathetic relationship with stress: it can shrink your brain.

A study published last month in the journal, Neurology, assessed the association of cortisol levels with cognitive performance and brain volume. Cortisol is one of the body’s main stress hormones, and while we need it in the right amounts, too much of it can wreak havoc in the body.

To understand how cortisol effects cognitive performance, researchers tested memory, attention and visual perception. They found that the higher the cortisol levels were, the worse individuals performed on cognitive tests. Their memory was also more impaired than the participants with lower cortisol levels, too.

Individuals were also given an MRI to observe brain structural integrity, i.e., brain volume. What was striking is that women with high cortisol levels had lower brain volume, but this wasn’t the case in men.  

Ladies, listen up: chronically elevated cortisol levels could shrink your brain. 

So, if you usually feel stressed out, now’s the time to address it. Not only does it wreak havoc on your hormonal health, but it can compromise your brain size, too. Whenever possible, take steps to reduce stress, do things you love, and cut out time to rest and relax. 

It’s just not worth ignoring your stress anymore.