Stress and Aging Too Quickly
“Stressing out” is what happens when we don’t handle stress in a healthy way. You stress your body out of hormonal balance, out of vitality, and out of longevity. Healthy bodies need the right levels of circulating stress hormones – too little, and we get weak and slow; too much, and we get sick and fat. “After every stressful situation, we become a little older,” says stress researcher Dr. Hans Selye. Stress and aging are closely related and the more stress you have, the faster your body will age. Here’s a brief review of the negative affects of stress and aging.
Shrinks the brain.
Chronic, unresolved stress can actually shrink the brain, a dementing process called glucocorticoid neurotoxicity.
Ages the heart.
Uncontrolled stress gives you a bad case of the “highs”: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Chronic stress causes a chronically elevated heart rate, which eventually wears it out. Heart failure is particularly common following periods of sudden of prolonged stress, for example the death of a loved one or other personal losses.
Weakens the bones.
Stress-induced osteoporosis causes high levels of stress hormones reducing calcium deposits in the bone bank, increasing calcium loss by the kidneys, and interferes with calcium absorption through the intestines.
Makes you sick.
People who suffer from chronic immune system illnesses, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer, often notice a flare-up during a long period of unresolved stress.
Makes you fat.
It can literally change the shape of your body, mainly by increasing belly fat.
Leads to diabetes.
High levels of stress hormones raise blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistance. It’s bad for the gut. Prolonged stress and anxiety can aggravate conditions such as reflux (heartburn), ulcers, and inflammatory bowl problems.
Stress hormones are designed to rev you up, not help you rest.
Stress hormones suppress testosterone and increase insulin, which can contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Six Simple Stress Busters
As you can see from the list of stress and aging ailments above, the expression “worried to death” has a biochemical basis. Negative stress and aging affects every vital organ. Optimists outlive pessimists. Anxious people are more likely to have a heart attack. Amped-up people who can’t calm down are more likely than calmer people to get major illnesses. Here are some simple stress-relieving techniques to help you stay calm and make sure stress and aging happen healthily.
If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it.
When a situation has passed or is beyond your control, come to terms with it. Remember that you can’t always control situations, but you can control your reactions to them. Oftentimes, our reactions to stressful situations cause more problems than the situation itself.
Focus on solutions, not problems.
The feeling of loss of control can cause the stress to continue so immediately focus on finding a solution to regain a sense of control when a problem happens. By focusing on solutions, you divert your energy from the problem to how to fix it.
Redirect negative thoughts.
Program your mind to “take five” and revisit calm, positive images and times instead of letting negative ones get a foothold.
Take a deep breath.
Deep relaxing breathing helps balance your hormones and increases oxygen levels which can help calm your body’s response to the stressor. Focus on breathing instead of the stressor in order to relax and reload to continue your day.
Move to mellow your mind.
Exercise works like a prescription mood mellower but without the mood-flattening side effects. As an added perk, research shows that fit people are bothered less by stress biochemically than are more sedentary people.
Surround yourself with upbeat, positive people.
Emotions are contagious. Brain researchers use the term mirroring to describe how the brain reacts to people who reflect emotions, either positive or negative. Being around happy, uplifting people stimulate your brain to turn on happy emotions.
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