Stress…The word itself makes one feel stressed. Some words have powerful connotations. By simply reading them you tend to start believing in their power. Imagine, if the word disturbs you so much and is capable of affecting your mind even momentarily, what happens when you are actually stressed?
How Stress Affects Us
Stress wrecks havoc not only on your mental well being but shows up on your physique. It is a major cause that contributes to the aging process among humans. A research conducted on the effects of stress on telomere – the protective layer on the DNA that protects it from damage – indicated that a stressed person’s telomeres start getting damaged or frayed more than a person who is not under any kind of stress. This generally happens after a person starts aging biologically. The research was conducted on mothers who had to take care of loved ones that were ill, chronically. The research also noted an interesting point; mothers with positive attitudes had normal telomeres than those who let the stress get them.
This indicates that stress not only affects the mental state of a person but it permeates to the cellular level causing it damage and subsequent premature aging.
On another level, the neuroendocrine system (nervous + endocrine system) works in tandem to maintain various functions in the body. It also protects human body from internal as well as external threats by performing functions as accelerated heart beats, increase in blood flow, and release of stress hormones such as cortisol to deal with an actual or perceive threat. When the body is exposed to too many stressors, the system cannot cope and a person is said to be stressed chronically.
This contributes to long term damaging effects on the brain (Alzheimer’s), arteries (thickening of arteries), heart (cardiovascular diseases) apart from the mental disorders in mild or severe forms (depression). Thus a person might end up aging prematurely due to elevated stress levels.
Image Credit: Helga Weber
How To Avoid Stress
One can safely say that there are as many stress coping methods as there are stressed individuals. The coping mechanism differs in each and every individual. There are no quick fixes and formulas when you are dealing with stress as causes may differ. Albeit, we can provide a general guideline which would help all the people coping one way or the other with stressors at varying degrees:
- Identify The Stressors – Identify the root cause of stress. This will help you avoid them in a proactive and positive manner.
- Eat Nutritious Food – At the root of many physical and mental ailments is nutritive deficiency. By eating food that comprises of organic vegetables, fruits, cereals, pulses and whole grains you will do your body and mind a great favour. Do not skimp on breakfast; skimp on sugar and calorie loaded junk food.
- Sufficient Snooze Time – Clock in sufficient sleep to keep your brain and body from being over worked. Sleep induces the ‘happiness’ hormone – serotonin, apart from the growth hormone – HGH which is responsible for the wear and tear of tissues in the human body. A good night’s sleep ensures that a person is well rested and ready to tackle the day to day activities in a proactive manner. Sleep is also said to fight wrinkles in popular folklore. So if you want to keep the signs of aging at bay, sleep for 6 – 8 hours per day.
- Be Active – If you do not have the time to exercise, ensure that you at least take a brisk walk round the block – be it to your work place, around the park, or back home. You can even use a bicycle to move around which will increase your metabolism and exercise your muscles apart from making you feel good (you see you will be doing your bit for the environment!). Research indicates that even moderate levels of exercise helps people stay and look young.
- Be Positive – A positive attitude towards life’s little and big problems helps you cope with stress better. Do away with the negative self talk, stay away from pessimism in any form and believe in your ability to deal with all kinds of stressors.
Aging is also a state of mind and so are stressors. If you take care of the latter, the former is bound to improve. Keep stress to minimal if you cannot avoid it and stay fit and enhance your lifespan a bit more.
The author has authored articles on topics that deal with the physical and mental well being of individuals apart from acne treatments, hair loss removal and growth hormone related issues.