We have all witnessed and experienced it. It? Stress. Let’s look at Barack Obama, when he first took on the high demanding role of president of the United States he looked fresh faced, thick brown hair; now into his second term as president we can see the effects stress has had on him, now greying hair and skin is dull with many more wrinkles appear. Stress is directly related to aging in that it can speed up the unwanted side effects.
Stress can be defined as any change from the normal that may be positive or negative. It’s been estimated that about 90% of doctor visits are related to stress. Stress greatly affects one’s body and health. It has mental and emotional effects in that it may increase anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, and insomnia. While physically it increases heart rate which leads to increased blood pressure, heart disease, plus increases cortisol levels in the body, exacerbate skin ailments, increase risk of cancer, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. For the skin it can make it dull, dry, increase frown lines and blemishes as well as cold sores.
Being stressed influences one’s behaviour, for example, make you less motivated and thus more likely to skip the gym workout, or eat less or more, as well as not take care of yourself by lack of hygiene and grooming or taking prescribed medications. Stress can decrease our immune system function and therefore make one more prone to viral infections such as the common cold and flu virus.
We have touched upon some of the negative effects of stress, however let’s look at how we can combat and decrease stress levels. Ideally, one must assess what the actual stressor is, before being able to fully de-stress. Is it health related, if so it is important to keep all medical appointments and take any recommended medications or treatments accordingly. Is it work-related? If so, are you able to cut down on the work or delegate tasks to co-worker, or are you able to switch positions. While assessing the stressor you may additionally use the following tips to help with stress management.
1. Exercise- there are numerous reasons how exercise helps with stress; focusing on the basics, exercises causes the brain to release the feel good endorphins which cause a positive ripple effect to our mood and body. As well as help to strengthen the immune system. Aim for 30 minutes of a form of moderate to high intensity exercise each day. Try a walk through a scenic hiking trail or pop in a favourite CD and dance around for 30 minutes.
2. Regular sleep pattern-aim for 8 hours of sleep a night. Adequate sleep will help increase concentration and energy levels. Limit and avoid caffeine and alcohol after 4:00 pm, try to go to bed at same time every night, sleep in a dark room and avoid having TVs in bedrooms.
3. Relaxation techniques: will help to decrease cortisol levels in the body. You may try tai chi, yoga class or deep breathing meditation techniques. This will lead to you feeling more calm and better cope with the stressor.
4.Do fun activities you enjoy, such as reading novels; spending time with friends and family, having a great time laughing and doing activities you enjoy; will release those feel good endorphins and make your mood more upbeat.
5. Recognize when you may need help/guidance. If you feel you are getting too overwhelmed seek help. You may want to set priorities of what items you need to do and what can wait to be done. If still feeling overwhelmed seek help, the professional or counselor will teach you techniques to help deal with stressors you may be facing.
Remember the healthier you are the younger you’ll look. 🙂