Stress is now considered the new biological clock as it can age all of us prematurely. In the past people believed that ageing was simply nature. Our genetic makeup was viewed as the key to how we age. But recent studies now indicate that nurture and/or the environment is the real key to how we age. The stress we experience in our lives will age us faster than any genetic factors.
Other factors that are known to affect the ageing process is our gender and socio economic status. Men generally have a shorter life span than women by approximately five years. And unskilled workers have shorter lives than professionals by approximately four years, for both men and women.
In 2004 scientists started to study telomeres. Telomeres are the tips of strands of DNA. They are similar to ends of shoe laces. Telomeres stop the DNA from fraying. When a DNA is healthy there is no frying. But unhealthy DNA will cease to function properly and will we appear to age faster. If the memory frays in a brain cell there will be a lapse of memory. It has been discovered that the chief enemy of telomeres is stress. Our outward sign of ageing is caused when telomeres are damaged and the DNA begins to fray.
But all is not lost as we can reverse many of the signs of ageing. Through a reduction in stress the erosion of telomeres can be halted and in many cases stimulated to grow again reversing the effects of ageing.
Although stress has been acknowledged as problematic we all need certain levels of stress to function in our daily lives. There is good and bad stress. The stress before you ski down a mountain, or sit an exam is essentially good stress. This is short term stress and the hormones that are released only stay in our blood for a short length of time. The bad stress is when the hormones stay in our blood for an extended period of time and the stress goes on and on. This can be similar to work stress or relationship stress where there never seems to be an end in sight to the many different problems.
Here are 11 ways to help lower your stress;
- Country walks
- Regular exercise
- Be optimistic
- Eat the right food
- Sleep more
- Deep breathing
- Give yourself time
- Put yourself first sometimes
- Read a book
- Take up a hobby
Christopher Swane - Counselling And Psychotherapy Services - Wellington New Zealand