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Jacqueline Seymour, Health Coach

Jacqueline Seymour

Health Coach

Reviewed By

 Dr. Frank Lipman sits on a chair, cross-legged, arm resting on the back of the chair, lightly touching his other hand that is resting on his thigh. He is wearing blue denim, a blue dress shirt and a navy textured blazer and black glasses. He is smiling, showing his front teeth looking off to the side.

Dr. Frank Lipman

Chief Medical Officer at THE WELL

Published: 03/07/2024

Stress is an inherent part of life and its effects reach far beyond momentary discomfort. As we navigate the challenges of everyday existence, it is essential to recognize the significant influence that stress can have on the aging process. From accelerating cellular deterioration to compromising overall well-being, chronic stress has a profound impact on our physical and mental health. Let’s dive into the relationship between stress and aging:

What type of stress is bad?

When confronted with a stressful situation, our bodies activate the stress response, also known as the “fight or flight” response. This response involves the release of stress hormones, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and heightened alertness. In the short term, this response can be beneficial, enabling us to handle immediate challenges. However, when stress becomes chronic, the consequences can be detrimental.

How does chronic stress accelerate aging?

1. Chronic stress accelerates cellular aging.

At the core of the stress-aging connection lies the intricate interplay between stress and cellular aging. Telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes, play a vital role in maintaining the integrity and stability of our DNA. With each cell division, telomeres naturally shorten, reflecting the cellular aging process. However, chronic stress and high levels of stress hormones can accelerate this telomere shortening, leading to premature cellular aging and a higher risk of age-related diseases.

2. Chronic stress creates an environment that supports inflammation and oxidative stress.

Chronic stress promotes the release of pro-inflammatory molecules and the production of reactive oxygen species. Prolonged inflammation and oxidative stress (essentially cellular aging itself) can be damaging to not only cells but also tissues and organs. This may promote the development of age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and weakened immune function.

3. Chronic stress does not support our mental well-being.

Chronic stress can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. These psychological factors, in turn, may disrupt sleep patterns, impair cognitive function, and compromise overall quality of life, thereby accelerating aging itself.

How can you better manage stress to promote healthy aging?

1. Incorporate stress reduction techniques.

Engage in stress reduction techniques – this can include mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies and activities that bring feelings of joy and relaxation. These practices likely help modulate your stress response, by lowering stress hormone levels, and promoting a sense of calm and well-being.

2. Engage in regular exercise.

Physical activity acts as a powerful stress reducer – so, it turns out its benefits go beyond just the physical. Participating in regular exercise promotes your release of endorphins, while improving mood, reducing inflammation, and enhancing your overall stress resiliency. Find activities that you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine!

3. Prioritize social connection.

Nurture meaningful connections with friends, family, and support networks to reduce stress. This is particularly helpful, since we know that sharing experiences, emotions, and receiving support can alleviate the burden of stress. Make sure that you regularly engage in social interactions and foster relationships that make you feel supported and that you belong.

4. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, meaning a balanced diet, regular sleep patterns, nature exposure, regular exercise, and avoidance of alcohol consumption and tobacco use, helps reduce the taxing effects of stress. Now that we’ve gone through the link between chronic stress and aging, it’s safe to say that doing so will also support healthy aging.

5. Practice smart time-management.

Developing effective time management strategies is helpful avoiding feeling overwhelmed. In doing so, make sure to set realistic goals, delegate tasks where possible, and prioritize self-care. Learning to support well-being on a day-to-day basis and creating boundaries can help alleviate chronic stress and promote healthy aging.

6. Seek support, when necessary.

If this is you, targeting stress professionally is important! 

For more tips on regulating stress, read “Vagus Nerve Stimulation: 9 Ways to Quickly Calm Body and Soul”.

Let’s make use of these strategies and take proactive steps towards reducing stress, nurturing our well-being, and embracing healthy aging.

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