A wide range of studies have shown that the stress caused by things like: untreated depression, social isolation, long-term unemployment and anxiety can speed-up the ageing process by shortening the length of each DNA strand.
Telomeres, which are the tips of strands of DNA rather like the tips on the end of a shoelace, stop DNA from fraying. When it frays, the cell stops being healthy: and if it is a skin cell, it will cease to function properly and will appear aged. If the DNA frays in a brain cell, memory will lapse.
The chromosomes in our cells are protected by these little tips. As our cells divide over time, because of damage, the telomeres get shorter and so become an accurate marker of biological ageing!
The most chronically stressed are women at mid-life; their children are usually teenagers or young adults, their parents are older and perhaps needing care.
They find they are having to earn money and provide for and care for all these different generations at a time when their bodies are getting older, when they are approaching the menopause and or worrying about retirement.
So what can we do to reduce stress?
Without stress we are barely alive, we barely feel. But good stress means the stress hormones are in our blood for a short length of time. Bad stress is when it is allowed to go on and on.
Is stress avoidable?
It is how you allow yourself to respond to triggers.
Some people ‘cope’ better than others for example: You can sit in a traffic jam tearing your hair out or you could sit back, listen to some music, let it wash over you and use the time productively. Which one are you?
Physical activity means the stress hormones are dispersed and are not swimming around in our bloodstream, wreaking mayhem with those strands of DNA.
When I am stressed I tend to reach for the Pinot and eat a choccie bar thinking this will help, WRONG. Eating lots of processed foods, sugar and over indulging in alcohol can also make our body’s more stressed as we try to digest this and then filter out the toxins.
As well as the stress in our minds releasing stress chemicals, our skin gets stressed out on its own with too much exposure to UVA/UVB and high winds or cold weather so its important to protect the skin using cosmeceutical grade skincare with an SPF when out and about.
If like me you find it hard to relax there are lots of ways to try these days, you can join a local meditation or yoga class, use essential oils with calming properties or read about mindfullness.