We all age at different rates and how we react to stress, how we interpret it, determines what it does to our bodies. Our bodies…nervous systems and endocrine systems were not meant for the unique stresses that we face in our everyday life today. We are not wild cavemen anymore and killing our stressor in mid-jump, quickly resolving our conflict. Our stressors don’t limp away quickly and leave us alone anymore…job, relationships, health stressors hang in there for the long run.
How you handle stress, however, affects more than your state of mind.
If you don’t give your mind a break from living on autopilot, the physical effects could shorten your life.
Unfortunately, the older you get, the less you can handle stress effectively. Your initial responses to a stressor will stay the same as when you were younger, but as you age, you recover slower and stress hormones like cortisol stay in your bloodstream longer, causing more damage. A vicious circle then perpetuates.
Psychological stress increases your risk of physical disease.
A study has determined that chronic psychological stress can take 9 to 17 years off of a natural life span.
How stressed out you feel and how long you are exposed to that stress, may increase the aging process.
And by the way, we don’t die of old age, we die of the damage that aging and lifestyle has done to the body.
Do You Have The Signs That Stress Is Aging You?
- You grind your teeth in your sleep driving your loved one crazy.
- Your jaw hurts from clenching your jaw muscles when you are awake or asleep.
- Your skin is itchy. Stress brings about changes in immune cells found in the skin, causing them to become overly stimulated. The result is very itchy skin and rashes like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. How much you itch may be a direct result of how high the level of stress is in your life.
- Your eye twitches. Sometimes an eye will twitch from fatigue and stop switching after some rest. An eye that twitches, even after rest, is probably reacting to stress, and may go on for weeks.
- Your gums are sore. Cortisol, a stress hormone, inflames the body and your gums. This weakens your immune system leading to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Before you know it, gingivitis is running rampant.
- You feel nauseous, and you aren’t pregnant or have the flu. Stress hormones upset the stomach.
- Your blood pressure and cholesterol is high. Both levels will climb immediately after exposure to extreme stress.
- Your blood sugars are high, interfering with your energy levels.
- You’ve put on weight in the abdominal region. Stress hormones encourage you to eat comfort foods like carbohydrates (donuts, chips, chocolate ice cream, popcorn, mashed potatoes…you see I know what a comfort food is, too )in large quantities, because they have disabled your satiation regulator. You are craving and you can’t be satisfied.
- You seem to have more infections because your immune system is shutting down. Sometimes, an excess of Cortisol will tell the immune system to shut down completely or to attack itself. Over time, conditions like fibromyalgia and crone’s disease may develop…any auto-immune disorder can manifest.
- Your wounds take forever to heal, if they do heal. In my job, I’ve seen wounds that have never healed, even after years of care. Eventually, that kind of wound ends up ending the life of the patient.
- Your stomach or abdomen hurts, especially about one hour after you eat. You most likely have an ulcer. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers but it does stimulate an overgrowth of bad bacteria which does make ulcers.
- Your hair is turning grey, really fast. You may be losing a large amount of it, even if you are a woman. Hormonal imbalances, brought on by excessive stress hormones in the body, will cause a loss of hair.
- Your skin is grey, lacks lustre and strength, and sags. Your face starts looking jowly. That alone makes you look 10 or more years older than you are. And adding salt to the wound, you may develop acne.
- Your joints and bones hurt and are weakening. If you are under great stress and fall, you may break bones.
- You are not thinking as clearly as you used to. Stress causes great deficits in cognitive ability. Your memory is interrupted. When stress hormones are flooding the body, your memories may not be implanted in your brain…neural pathways may not form…leaving you with no memory of the event you should be remembering…like an important meeting at work. Retrieval of past memories becomes impaired because of poor firing between neurons in the brain when exposed to excessive cortisol.
- You have no sex drive to mention anymore. Your significant other may be just your roommate now.
- Nervous habits you may have had over the years, become more pronounced. Nail biting, hair twirling, smoking etc., are accelerated. You are unconsciously looking for a relief from the stressors.
- Your judgment is poor and you second guess yourself more often than you used to. Be careful when you are driving.
- You have constant anxious or racing thoughts.
- You worry constantly. You have “free floating anxiety”. You have trouble judging how important something is…is breaking a nail as serious as breaking your leg? Sometimes you can’t figure out why you feel so worrisome.
- You have emotional symptoms like moodiness, irritability,depression and unhappiness.
- Your temper is short and hot and you are using it on the ones you feel closest to.
- You feel constantly agitated, and can’t seem to find a way to relax.
- You feel overwhelmed by just about everything…even bathing or brushing your teeth sometimes seems to be too big a project.
- You feel lonely and isolated, even with people around you.
- You have physical symptoms like body aches and pains, that acetaminophen won’t take away.
- You either have diarrhea a lot or you’re constipated or revolve between the two disasters.
- You sleep too much or too little, and never when you’re supposed to.
- You isolate yourself from your loved ones and friends. You just want to be left alone.
- You are puffy all over because you are retaining fluids, and you bruise more.
- You feel pains in your chest or palpitations. Sometimes your chest feel s so tight, that you have trouble breathing.
- You may lose your appetite and experience a great weight loss. It doesn’t look good though because your skin will sag because stress has depleted your collagen hormone.
- You have lost, you. Your personality and sense of humour is AWOL.
- You cry easily or, more frighteningly, you don’t cry at all, even when appropriate.
- You are emotional and overly sensitive and can’t read people correctly.
Any one of those signs can debilitate your life.
What is exciting though, is, that all of those signs and symptoms can be turned around with the proper stimulation.
Before you can change how stress is affecting you, you must know what type of life events may be causing this disruption in your life.
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