Chronic stress is believed to accelerate ageing, we’ve all had restless nights before an important event. We’re plagued with the fight or flight response of our ancestors, giving us the ability to respond to danger to give us the best chance of survival.
Our mind cannot distinguish from the threat of a blood-thirsty beast hurtling towards us and the finance, social and work related stress of modern life. Chronic exposure to stress can cause and body and mind to slowly break down, as Dr. Vivian Diller PhD explains:
“It’s very possible that if you have a life filled with that constant stress, little by little the body is breaking down.” Dr. Vivian Diller, PhD (via Huffington Post)
Stress Effects On The Brain
“The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress, because of the damaging effects of cortisol” (Goleman, 2006, p. 273) (via DrGailGross)
The hormone released during stress is shown to destroy the cells in the hippocampus of the brain. This part of the brain is vital in converting new information into long-term memories, impairing our ability to store new information.
Stress & Insomnia
“Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep. It [stress] causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.” (via SleepFoundation).
We’ve all had our fair share of stress-induced restless nights, unable to escape apprehensive thoughts towards future obligations.
Lack of sleep causes an abundance of problems which lead us to age premature, as sleep is where our bodies heal, cells repair and brian memories form. All processes of which we are robbed if we fail to sleep well. Studies show sleep deprivation causes our skin to age prematurely and affects our memories and cognitive function.
Stress Damages Our Cells
“Psychological stress can boost inflammation (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2003) as well as oxidative stress (Epel et al., 2004), and both inflammation and oxidative stress accelerate telomere attrition (Aviv, 2004)” (via NCBI)
Research shows those suffering job stress have the shortest telomeres, the cells responsible for protecting our DNA. Once they become too short and perish the DNA is left unprotected to damage, which causes ageing.
How To Help
Managing stress benefits your well-being and is one of the keys to age well. Stress should not be avoided, as in this sense you are letting the response control your life, which is unneeded if you know how to deal with it.