The causes of stress are things that our subconscious minds perceive as threats. Whether real or imagined our brain reacts in the same way to any ‘threat’ – by pumping stress hormones into our bloodstream.
These hormones bring about immediate changes in the body’s biochemical state. We’ve all experienced what happens next – raised blood pressure, palpitations, anger, fear, worry or aggression. In short, stress upsets our normal bodily balance.
Long term stress
Most times these extra chemicals flooidng through our bloodstream aren’t put to good use. Most of the time we feel stressed we aren’t fleeing for our lives or fighting off attackers.
The cause of the stress may be deeply felt and it can be with us over a long period. Our immune system is affected and we become more prone to mental and physical illnesses.
Stress hormones were not designed to circulate around your body for long periods – or more accurately – your body is not designed to deal with these chemicals over long periods. Long term stress is what can cause the most damage to your body and your looks.
Stress hormones matter
Of course there is a very good reason for stress hormones.
The classic stress response – the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream – is there to save our lives. Raised adrenaline levels prepare your body to run away from trouble or to confront it with a superhuman effort in dangerous situations. Adrenaline is the reason many people survive in life-threatening situations.
Adrenaline is partly responsible for any great sporting achievment or supreme test of endurance. It’s the reason people survive fires, bombs, floods, wars and any other truly life-threatening situation
You may not have to endure any of these awful events in your life but we all get difficult times and your stress hormones will help pull you through.
How stress affects you
Unfortunately, when the stress response is applied by the body to less dangerous threats – some of life’s ordinary stressful situations – we use up huge amounts of physical energy out of all proportion to the threat we face.
Think about a situation which caused you acute anxiety recently – an argument at home, a job interview, standing up in public to say a few words, confronting a personal difficulty with a freind or colleague.
You probably felt your heart thumping, your brain racing, your blood pressure increasing and every sense in your body on high alert. When the situation was over no doubt you felt exhausted – physically and mentally drained. You may had a headache, felt weak or shaky.
That is the toll the stress response takes on your body. Worth it if it saved your life – but if it wasn’t really necessary or it happens all the time – then it does untold damage.
Stress speeds up aging
So what’s the impact for healthy aging? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that stress accelerates the aging process.
Eternally youthful celebrities like Andie Macdowell and Meryl Streep realize that managing stress levels is key to looking younger and take action to reduce stress in their everyday lives – with good reason.
When we suffer stress we lose our bodies natural balance which causes damage to hormone secretion, cell repair and collagen production. Worry, anxiety and stress really do etch themselves on our faces. The result for you is that stress speeds up skin aging – lines, wrinkles and sagging skin are the outward signs of all that inner turmoil.
More worryingly perhaps recent research suggests that when the body is exposed over a long period of time to stress hormones this can speed up brain aging too.
So – the a key strategy for anti aging health is reduce your stress levels and manage stress that’s unavoidable in a positive way.