Image: Sodanie Chea
You feel stressed when you feel there is a pressure or a threat. When you’re under stress, you may feel nervous, tensed, or on the edge.
In contrast to how people perceived it, stress isn’t entirely bad. In fact, under certain circumstances, it can help you perform better and provide you with motivation to do your best. In some situations, stress can be a good thing. However, when you’re constantly under stress, your health can be compromised. Your system is always on the fight-or-flight mode, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and tired.
Researchers have found out that chronic stress can play a role in the development of different conditions such as depression, anxiety, immune system problems, skin conditions like eczema, sleeping difficulties, kidney problems, weight issues, and even heart disease. And if you’re worried about aging, then the more you should learn to manage stress effectively as it can affect the aging process.
How Stress Affects the Aging Process
When you are under stress, the body creates a fight-or-flight reaction, triggering the release of stress chemicals in the body. The release of these chemicals create biological changes which in the long run could break down the body.
In a study published by the journal Plos One, researchers found out that those who suffer from severe exhaustion from work have shorter telomeres. The length of telomeres can affect the pace of aging as well as the onset of age-related diseases like cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes.
It’s not just the actual exposure to stress that can affect the aging process. Researchers from UC San Francisco have discovered that even the mere anticipation of stress can have an impact on cellular aging. This anticipation to stress can put someone at risk for having shorter telomeres.
Having higher load of stress doesn’t just predispose a person to heart disease but also to diseases that can affect the brain like Alzheimer’s disease. In one research, it shows that chronic stress can put someone at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Since some women are exposed to more stress than men, they are also shown to have brains that age more prematurely.
Vision and Hearing Loss
When the body is on a fight-or-flight mode, a hormone adrenaline is released into the bloodstream to prepare the body for the threat. While it is helpful in certain situations, constantly putting oneself under stress leads to constant pumping of the hormone adrenaline which can temporarily affect vision and hearing. This has something to do with the hormone’s constricting effect on the blood vessels.
Poor Lifestyle Choices
Constant exposure to stress often lead to a myriad of health problems because it causes people to make unhealthy choices like eating poorly, exercising less, abusing substances like alcohol and tobacco, and sleeping less. All these contribute to the development of chronic and potentially life-threatening health conditions.
Managing Stress Effectively
While it’s impossible to get rid of stress because it’s part of life, you can do something to manage them effectively. Here are some ways on how you can do that:
- Get moving
When you’re under stress, getting into any form of physical activity could be the last thing in your mind. But studies have found out that physical activity is a good form of stress reliever. Whether you decide to walk, swim, or run, getting into any form of exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones of the body. Exercise is also a good form of distraction from your daily worries.
- Seek support
Reaching out to friends, family, or someone whom you can talk to can help in alleviating stress. In fact, face-to-face interaction with another human being is considered to be a natural way of combating the stress response of the body when it’s on a fight-or-flight mode.
- Make time for some fun and relaxation
Setting a regular “me” time may be challenging to do especially with the daily hustle and bustle of life but doing so can benefit you tremendously. Nurturing your needs can make you better prepared in handling life’s stressors.
You can set aside a day in a week to do whatever you want – be it doing your hobbies or learning something new. You’ll thank yourself for doing it.
Stress is unavoidable but this doesn’t mean that you can just let it affect you, your aging, and your health. There are ways to help you manage it better.