Stress can age you in a number of ways. We all undergo stressful situations, but it is a matter of how we handle it.
Four Ways A Stressful Life Can Age You
Lack of Sleep
Stressful situations can often create more anxiety and increase worry. When we are feeling stress, anxiety and concerns creep up interrupting our sleep, which is never a good thing.
Sleepless nights make for an unproductive recipe. Even if you are able to power away running on fumes, downing cups of coffee and energy drinks, research shows that excess caffeine use encourages our angst.
Does this mean you have to abstain from your morning cup of coffee? Not exactly. In fact, further studies indicate a boost of energy resulting in better performance. The same study also suggests that moderate caffeine consumption plays a role in counteracting effects of aging.
“These results suggest that caffeine makes more energy resources available for task performance. The effects of aging on P3b latency were counteracted by caffeine. Other caffeine effects did not differ significantly between young and elderly subjects.”
Further examination of moderate caffeine intake in mice indicates that caffeine helps to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
“A recent epidemiological study suggested that higher caffeine intake over decades reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)”
Stressful Situations Can Disrupt Our Cognitive Function
Stress can also interrupt our brains, thus impairing our cognitive function. A self- report of 138 healthy volunteers in four age groups found that, “cognitive failures were strongly associated with stress and anxiety.”
Worry Affects Our Mood
Additionally, a heightened level of stress can turn that smile upside down. More research shows a link between stress and mood disorders. Further studies show growing evidence that the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps to stabilize mood is decreased when exposed to stress. Likewise, a reduction in BDNF function can cause susceptibility to mood disorders such as depression.
Stress Can Heighten Addictive Tendencies
Furthermore, stressful events can lead to turning to alcohol or cigarettes to unwind. According to aging research, three factors contribute to the aging process: 1) oxidative stress 2) glycation and 3) diminishing telomeres. Oxidative stress is damage done to our bodies from free radicals that deplete antioxidants. A depletion of antioxidants from cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol can result in cell damage and early signs of aging.
Finally, stress and addiction often go hand in hand. More research exposes the association between the two:
“The preclinical literature suggests that stress increases reward associated with psychomotor stimulants, possibly through a process similar to sensitization. While it is not conclusive that a similar process occurs in humans, a growing clinical literature indicates that there is a link between substance abuse and stress.”
Addiction can negatively influence the aging process, especially if the addiction is a substance abuse issue.
Three Simple Ways To Reduce Stress
- Get plenty of rest. When you are well rested, you are more productive and can function at optimal levels. Having good sleep hygiene is imperative for your mental and physical well-being. This means disconnecting from electronics or anything that might cause too much stimulation before bed.
2. Make sure you are getting regular exercise. The average adult requires at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise per week. Most people can reach their goal by walking 30 minutes, five days a week. However, if you do not have the time then try squeezing in 15-minute exercises to start.
3. Reduce your stress level by adopting healthier coping mechanisms. This can include eating healthier, nutrient-rich meals and avoiding addictive substances. Getting into healthier lifestyle choices can also incorporate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant supplements.
Being Stress-Free Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated
By maintaining healthy coping mechanisms to help reduce stress, you can avoid potential burnout. Staying fit can even help you exercise your way out of depression and reduce anxiety, making your health a top priority. Additional alternative ways to help unwind might mean trying out meditation techniques and coupling your Zen-time with essential oils and aromatherapy. Finally, reducing the aging process also requires nurturing your skin with skin-loving anti-aging products. Taking care of your skin and managing stress are both two significant ways you can age gracefully while living a happier life.
Sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet might seem a little too elementary, but they are significant steps towards a stress-free life!