It’s impossible to escape stress. But if you’re aging rapidly, chances are stress is a major contributor. While you can’t eliminate stress, you can learn how to reduce it and manage it so that you can slow and even reverse aging.
Experts warn that for some demographics, stress poses a real health problem. For example, older men who experience chronic or high levels of continual stress fall more often and suffer injuries from those falls. Pair this with weakened bones and it’s a recipe for disaster that can make you age faster than you should be.
The Effect of Stress on the Body
There’s really no time in your life when chronic stress doesn’t take a toll. Even someone in his or her twenties will experience rapid aging when subjected to too much stress.
The problem with stress is that it actually affects you at a cellular level. It changes the way your cells function and can even cause your DNA to become damaged.
These changes have been linked with illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Stress can also lead to problems with vision and hearing as well as aging of your brain.
And stress also causes you to live an unhealthy lifestyle, which in turns leads to more problems. Overall, chronic stress causes the body to produce too much of the hormone cortisol.
As we discussed earlier, this hormone leads to the body becoming inflamed at a cellular level. Your organs, bones, and skin begin to age at a faster pace and you’re more likely to develop disease.
At the University of California in San Francisco, scientists discovered that stress literally creates wrinkles on your face, weakens your muscles, makes your eyesight worse – and more – all signs of premature aging.
That’s because when you get stressed, it shortens your telomeres. These are items on the tip of chromosomes that typically help your cells regrow faster. When they’re shortened, your cell growth dies out, too – and you begin feeling older, faster.
Sources of Stress
Before you can conquer stress, it’s important to understand what’s causing your stress. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It helps you perform well on a test or presentation and can give you extra energy you need for a task.
The problem comes when stress becomes chronic and you don’t get a break from it. Unfortunately, modern society lends itself to chronic stress. There are many things that could lead to struggles with stress such as:
- Family crisis
- Marital problems
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of social outlets
- Conflicts with your values and your lifestyle
This list could go on and on and will vary among individuals. Take a few moments to think about your own life and what causes you the most stress. Once you understand where your stress is coming from, you can begin to improve your situation.
The first thing you need to do to reverse the effects of stress on your body is to eliminate whatever stress you can toss out. You may think that there’s not much you can do about your stress, but usually there’s at least one thing you can get rid of.
For example, look at your schedule. Are you involved in too many activities? Have you said yes one too many times? Choose one or two things from your schedule that you can eliminate.
Are there household responsibilities you can delegate to someone else? Is there something at work that can be eliminated or shared with a coworker? You won’t be able to eliminate every source of stress, but there is usually at least one thing you can just cross off your list.
Managing the Stress That’s Left
With the stress you have left, you’ll need to learn management techniques. There are quite a few ways you can manage stress so that, even though it isn’t eliminated, it doesn’t take over your life.
It can often help to seek some professional counseling to help you pinpoint areas where you can improve your stress management skills. This can also help with serious stressors such as death, trauma, and divorce.
When it comes to stressors such as being part of an overscheduled family, you can probably come up with a plan on your own for dealing with it. For example, sitting down with your family and figuring out the schedule for the month or week can help you manage the time you spend running errands and attending events.
You’ll have more time at home and less time on the go. Even something as simple as planning your meals ahead of time can reduce the amount of time you spend trying to shop and figure out what you’re going to do each day for meals.
If you have major stress at work, brainstorm ways that you can reduce your load or at least make it more bearable. For example, can you try to go into work 30 minutes earlier so that you don’t have to bring any work home with you in the evening?
Is it possible to make a job change or even a career change that would help your stress levels be reduced? Think outside the box to manage your stress in the best ways possible.
Managing the Effects of Stress
While you can do a lot to improve your levels of stress, you’re going to have some stress in life. That’s a guarantee. So it’s important to know what you can do to reduce the effects of stress on your body and the aging process.
By reducing stress and managing its effects, you can reverse wrinkles, reverse health problems, and look and feel younger than ever. We’ll look at several things you can do to keep stress from causing you to age.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to help stress leave your body. It helps you relax your mind, relieves muscle tension, and it gets rid of extra energy and anxiety that you may be carrying around with you.
Taking a daily walk – even if it’s just 15 minutes – can help you feel stress relief and improve your mood. You’ll find that you sleep better, have more energy, and feel younger.
Yoga and stretching can also help to relieve stress in the body and help you feel more relaxed after a long day. These exercises can also help you feel energized in the morning.
Many people are sleep deprived. When you’re stressed, you may feel so tense and anxious that you don’t get enough sleep. This can turn to depending on drugs to help you sleep at night.
While you’re asleep, you may not be getting the true rest you need if you rely on sleeping medications. Creating a relaxing night time routine can be more beneficial and help you to get more sleep naturally.
Try taking a warm bath, turning the lights lower in your home, and listening to relaxing music an hour or two before going to bed. Make sure that your room is comfortable for sleep and free from distractions.
Avoid electronic devices right before bed. The light shining into your eyes and the neural stimulation makes it difficult to sleep after using these gadgets. You should also avoid caffeine.
Good nutrition can’t be underestimated when it comes to your health and reversing the effects of stress. When you’re very busy and under stress, you’re more likely to grab convenience foods that don’t have the nutrients you need.
Poor nutrition can also cause problems with indigestion, weight gain, cravings, and cause you to have sugar highs and crashes. It’s helpful to plan ahead and have healthy foods on hand that you can grab and go if needed.
For example, making a fruit smoothie or eating a piece of fruit and some yogurt for breakfast is much better for your body than going through the fast food lane. Packing your lunch for work can help you eat fruits and veggies that will give you good nutrition and energy throughout your day.
You should also take a daily multivitamin to help fill the gaps of what you don’t get in your food each day. However, it’s important to remember that your body uses nutrients the best when they come from food.
There are also herbal supplements that can help support your body in stress relief. Magnesium and melatonin can help you relax and get a better night of sleep.
Making sure that you get enough vitamin B6 can help you avoid headaches related to stress. Omega-3 fatty acids will give pain relief to a stressed out body. Astragalus can help you to strengthen your immune system and fight off illness.
The herb rhodiola can help you gain more energy and fight the fatigue that comes along with stress. With any herbal supplement, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with any medications you’re taking or health conditions you currently have.
Meditation is another way that you can get relief from stress. The idea of meditation can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are very simple things you can do to add some peace to your day.
Closing your eyes for a minute and taking a few deep breaths can be enough to improve the way you’re feeling. For some people, saying daily prayers is a form of meditation that brings peace and comfort.
You can also perform guided meditation by purchasing an audio recording that guides you through affirmations, relaxation exercises and other techniques for meditation.
What Happens When You Reduce Stress
When you reduce stress levels, your body begins to reverse the aging process. You produce less cortisol and begin producing human growth hormone. Your body goes from inflammation to a more normal and healthy state.
This reverses problems with chronic disease, weight gain, fatigue, and pain related to stress. You’ll begin to see changes in your skin complexion and you’ll have more energy and feel your youth is being restored.