Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco have uncovered a link between constant anxiety and lower levels of a hormone (Klotho) that regulates aging and lifespan. The study compared women who were chronically stressed from being caregivers to children with autism, to women who did not have such responsibilities.
The caregivers’ hormone levels were as low as those who were decades older. Although this does not prove cause and effect, the researchers believe that persistent mental stress may be a factor in premature aging.
There are ways to combat stress that are effective and easy and do not come in a bottle (of any description.) Neither pills nor alcohol do much to combat chronic stress but instead add to the load that one’s body must carry. A better way is to look to natural methods to lower anxiety and increase relaxation.
Breathing exercises such as those practiced in yoga and meditation exercises do wonders for lowering stress because not only do they focus the mind on the breath, but they also reduce the amount of CO2 in the blood, and increase the level of oxygen, in and of itself a healthy and calming undertaking.
Mindfulness also takes into consideration cognitive evaluation of events. When something distasteful or unfortunate occurs, you have a choice of responses. You can choose to get bent out of shape and stressed out or you can choose to let it ride.
The old saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff … in the end it is pretty much all small stuff” is so true. Worrying, stressing and feeling bad about events or possibilities is simply not strategic thinking.
Most of what we worry about never comes about, and if it does, most of it is not that tragic anyway.
Take a non-emotional cognitive look at events and situations and act rationally. Making a plan for events if they do go sideways is a good strategy, angsting about it is not. When planning what you might do if the worst happens, you can carefully think through options and decide on your best strategies.
At the end of the day, most of us can control very little in our lives. We do our best, get educated, get a good job, try to make a good life and all that but we really can’t control the economy, or the job market, or the politics of the world.
What we can do is control our reactions to things and make the best of whatever comes our way. Truly the only thing you really have total control over in your life is your reactions and your actions. Rather than worrying, act and react in positive ways to afford the best possible outcome. This applies to letting small stuff irritate you as well; it only harms you.
Make sure that you get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation adds to physical, mental and emotional stress. Sometimes the stress leads to sleeplessness and then it becomes a viscous cycle. Try to avoid overworking into the night and instead reserve the evenings for relaxation and rest.
Fake it till you make it. Smiling through the tough and stressful times actually tricks your emotions and brain into feeling less anxious. There is much research on laughter and smiling in this stress reduction capacity. Assuming an attitude of gratitude is along the same idea.
Instead of dwelling on the negative and the worrisome, focus on all the good in your life, the good people, the family, the place you live, your abilities and the ability to have many freedoms denied others simply because of here they were born. We have much to be grateful for!
Eat right! Having a lousy diet does nothing good for your physical, mental or emotional well-being. Clean up your diet and eat well. Fresh fruit and veggies are abundant here on Kauai. Eat whole grains, not white, nutritionally devoid rice or grains. Eat low-fat meat and fish and avoid junk food and sugar. It is poison. It robs your body of health. Eat natural non-processed food and feel how much better you feel about everything!
Exercise helps you relax physically and also takes your mind off of your worries and places it onto doing something positive for yourself. Yoga is especially noted for relaxation but all forms of exercise release stress and help you focus on more positive things.
There are many methods to reduce stress naturally. It is truly up to you to live a long and happy life.
Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-8119 cell/text. and www.janerileyfitness.com