Welcome to Secret #5 in our 5-part series on the 5 Most Powerful but Little-Known Anti-Aging Secrets. Also don’t miss Anti-Aging Secret #4 here … and watch our blog over the coming weeks for the other posts in this series!
Secret #5: Stress Management
If you’re stressed out, you’re going to age faster than you would otherwise. The research is really quite clear in this area. All of your efforts to eat right, exercise and live healthy may be in vain if you forget the all-important area of stress management.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid stress in your life – but it’s definitely possible to keep it in check. Why is this so important? According to the American Institute of Stress:[i]
“Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging and support comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function, as well as how we respond to hidden inflammation.
… In one study, senior citizens who felt stressed out from taking care of their disabled spouses were 63 percent more likely to die within 4 years than caregivers without this complaint. In another study … spouses and children who provided such constant care shortened their lives by as much as four to eight years!”
We all know how detrimental to your health smoking is, and research shows stress may be just as dangerous. Stress ages your heart and is associated with high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, increased oxygen demand and increased heart rate.[ii]
Chronic stress has also recently been found to interfere with your body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response, as it alters tissue sensitivity to stress hormones like cortisol.[iii] Inflammation, in turn, underlies many age-related chronic diseases, including heart disease. Stress may also accelerate aging by shortening your telomeres, which are protective ‘caps’ on the ends of your chromosomes. It’s thought that as your telomeres shorten, your cells age faster and die sooner. As reported by Psychology Today:[iv]
“Telomere length is a marker of both biological and cellular aging. Stressful life experiences in childhood and adulthood have previously been linked to accelerated telomere shortening. Shortened telomeres have been associated with chronic diseases and premature death …”
People with the greatest amounts of job stress have been found to have shorter telomeres than those without it,[v] for instance, as have mothers of chronically ill children and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the National Institute on Aging:[vi]
“These findings could suggest that emotional or psychological stress might affect the aging process.”
Stress has also been shown to cause premature aging in the following ways:[vii]
- Anticipating a stressful event may promote and accelerate cellular aging[viii]
- Chronic stress ages your brain and may be the reason why women tend to have faster age-related declines in cognitive function[ix]
- People who are stressed are more likely to lead an unhealthy lifestyle, and eating poorly, being sedentary, overdoing alcohol, smoking and not sleeping enough all accelerate the aging process
The Best Stress Relief Strategy of All?
There are many ways to manage and relieve stress in your life … and I’ve detailed my top 10 stress busters here. Stress management really should be an ongoing habit that you take time for each and every day. As such, ideally you’ll engage in multiple stress-relief habits daily, such as deep breathing, laughter, meditation, journaling or soaking in a warm tub or sauna.
If you’re looking for just one thing to do to really help nip stress in the bud, I’d have to recommend exercise. As you exercise your body releases endorphins, what I like to call “happy chemicals,” because they literally melt stress from your body like magic. Research shows that people who exercise regularly decrease their levels of tension while improving mood, sleep and self-esteem. Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.[x]
What this means is that even a super quick intense workout like the No Excuses Workout can boost your mood, fast. It takes just four minutes of your time, so you can fit it in whenever you’re in need of some speedy stress release. A regular exercise program – one that includes high-intensity interval training, strength training and core work (like yoga) – is excellent too … but I like to keep the No Excuse Workout as my secret stress-busting ace in the hole. It works every time to melt away stress … in just four minutes flat.