Stressed? Long Term Effects
Prolonged Psychological Stress
The impact of prolonged psychological stress on the body causes cell aging and influences disease processes, according to a scientific study reported in the November 30th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The surprising results of this study show the damage which is expected from living with constant stress, however, the same damage was found in women with perceived stress. How you handle stress has a major impact on how fast you age and on the state of your health.
The UCSF researchers determined that chronic stress and the perception of life stress both had a significant impact on three biological factors. The findings are a bit complex to put in simple terms, however, I will do my best.
Ultimately DNA protein complexes called telomeric DNA diminish with chronic stress, and the aged cell stops dividing. The cells that the tissue normally form are affected by this factor. The telomeres are critical to the number of times a cell divides, its health and its life span. The enzyme telomerase replenishes a portion of the telomeres with each cell division and protect the telomeres. Oxidative stress causes DNA damage and negatively affects the whole process.
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Chronic Stress VS Perceived Stress
The other very interesting outcome of this study is the women with the perception of being stressed; exhibited anxiety symptoms which correlated with the caregiver group having the same biological markers. That means they also underwent the equivalent of 10 years of additional aging just as the mothers of chronically ill children. This is the first evidence that chronic psychological stress and how a person perceives stress can equally accelerate the rate of aging.
Are you a drama queen? Do you overreact over every small thing in your life that doesn’t go just right? Some examples might include a flat tire, an unexpected guest, a headache, a long form to fill out and the result is little annoyances and big problems evoke the same amount of stress.
If you get stressed over minor inconveniences or when unexpected problems arise, you are in the group that has chronic stress over perceived events which will age you considerably faster than normal.
Humans are constantly anticipating what is going to happen, sometimes accurately and often incorrectly. Many people dwell on the good and bad possible consequences of their actions and choices. These actions certainly increase your symptoms of stress. If you are in this group it is time to make some changes, and there are many excellent ways to reduce your stress level.
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Ways to Reduce Stress
Here are restorative ways of reducing your stress. Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson discovered that the automatically triggered parasympathetic nervous system response that normally ends a stress episode can be triggered in a conscious and intentional fashion through the use of a variety of stress reduction techniques. He suggests:
- Pick a focus word or phrase. (Benson suggests the words "one" or "calm", but any word you find restful will work well.)
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Relax your muscles.
- Breathe slowly and naturally, repeating your focus word or phrase as you exhale.
The direct route to the parasympathetic nervous system activation is through the breath. Conscious deep rhythmic breathing has a calming effect on the body, and tends to help the heart rate to slow down, the mind to quiet and attention to turn inward towards the sensation of inhalation and exhalation.
How Stress Affects Your Health
Suggestions for Stressed Parents
If you have a chronically ill child you need help from other family members or friends. It is important for you to have some time to yourself and for you to get enough rest.
- Ask for help from other family members or even pay someone to come in at least one afternoon a week so you can get out of the house and do something good for yourself.
- If there is a support group available be sure to join as you will have someone to talk to that is living with the same problems, and they will probably have suggestions that will make your life easier.
- Eat food that is healthy.
- Exercise when you can if it is just a quick walk around the block.
- Learning Yoga can be very helpful.
- Learn to meditate and when your child is sleeping meditate or get some rest if needed.
- Keeping a diary and writing your feeling even if it is just a few lines a day can be helpful..
- It is important to have a support system, so you don’t feel like you are in this position all by yourself.
Whether you have perceived stress or stress that is based on serious life circumstances there are some things you can do to get some relief. Taking care of a chronically ill person will certainly produce stress, and it takes careful planning to find some relief from the situation. Obviously you can’t work full time outside of the home, and it is difficult to plan events, but usually you can get some relief if family and friends help. It is important to ask for help when you need it and not to fall in the roll of a martyr.
Stretches and deep breathing even for just a few minutes relieve stress. Listen to upbeat music which usually makes you feel good. Pamper yourself with a bubble bath when your mate is home and you have a few minutes to yourself.
You may have to think of the little things that make you feel better and more in control of your life, but the effort is so worthwhile. Make sure you have at least one person to talk to that you trust so you can vent when necessary or just talk and laugh. If you are spiritual, prayer and meditation will give you a great deal of relief. Live in this day and don’t worry about tomorrow as that will come soon enough.