If you’ve ever had a chance to see a before and after picture of a U.S. President you’ve seen first hand how stress affects aging. It’s pretty dramatic; especially given that the change can happen in as little as four years! Even if you’re not the President, stress more than almost anything else, can have a devastating effect on your body and cause you to age faster than you should.
How Stress Ages You
Chronic stress has a negative impact on numerous systems in your body. Your nervous, endocrine, respiratory and digestive systems are all effected as well as musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. When your under stress your muscles tense which can lead to headaches and trigger other stress related disorders. Stressful situations can cause your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to dilate which increases your blood pressure. Additionally, studies have shown that stress can have a harmful effect on critical DNA segments within your cells called telomeres. When telomeres are shortened due to chronic stress it leads to damaged cells and premature aging.
Simple Tips for Reducing Your Stress
There are simple things you can do to reduce the effects of stress on your body and prevent stress from aging your prematurely.
A lot of stress comes from worrying about the past or the future. Being present can help reduce feelings of stress. One of the easiest ways to be present is to focus on your breath. Remember how your mom told you to “take a deep breath” when you were getting angry? She was totally on to something! Start with a deep inhale through your nose and hold it for a moment before you exhale. Focus on feeling your chest rise or the sound of your breath and key into the moment. Within 10 breaths you’ll begin to feel calmer and less stressed.
Exercise is an excellent way to reduce the effects of stress in the body. Stress triggers the fight or flight reflex and both require physical activity. So going to the gym, a spin class or even going for a walk on a regular basis can be very beneficial.
When your under stress your body depletes vital nutrients. A well rounded, healthy diet and supplementation is important to provide your body with the nutrients needed to handle stress effectively. One nutrient, magnesium, is especially important for helping relieve and reduce stress.
Finally, be sure you’re getting plenty of quality sleep. When you’re not getting enough sleep it can cause you to be irritable, unhealthy and stressed. On the flip-side getting an adequate amount of quality sleep will improve your mood and enhance your feeling of well-being.
Stress is an inevitable part of modern life but with some simple techniques and preventative measures you can reduce your stress and prevent premature aging. Here’s a bonus tip and something to say to yourself next time you’re stressed…”at least I’m not the President!”
- Stress Effects on the Body. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx
- Work-Related Exhaustion and Telomere Length: A Population-Based Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040186