How Stress Impacts Aging
October 9, 2017

Deadlines at work. Juggling after school activities. Toddler tantrums. Another day in the carpool lane. The endlessly jaw-dropping news cycle. Life. Stress is unavoidable, especially in this age of on-the-go living and never-ending multitasking, but you don’t have to let anxiety and pressure take your health on a detour you’d much rather avoid. Succumbing to stressors can have a negative impact on your over well-being as well as your skin health, neither of which will help you feel or look your best.

How can you combat something that seems inevitable? It’s all about understanding how your body reacts to tension and worry and then finding ways to trade in the intensity and embrace a more restful, relaxing lifestyle instead.

The Physiological Burden of Stress

When you encounter stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Ideally, that cortisone courses through your body temporarily, helping you stay in balance and cope with fear and trauma on a short-term basis until the outside stressor dissipates and life returns to normal. For people who are under stress for long periods of time, however, cortisol levels stay elevated, negatively impacting immunity, causing skin to thin, and even shrinking vital organs like the brain.

There’s also the issue of telomeres. Never heard the term? You’re not alone but what you don’t know could hurt you. Telomeres are basically the end caps on your DNA. When they’re intact, your DNA is protected but when the telomeres begin to deteriorate and shred – something associated with high levels of stress – the health of those DNA cells deteriorate as well. The exact location of those damaged cells determines what side effects you’ll start feeling but it could be anything from memory lapses to dull skin. One study of women in high-stress situations found that participants had telomeres that measured ten years shorter than expected, a pattern of erosion that can easily result in a whole host of other health issues.

5 Signs Stress is Sucking the Life Out of Your Skin

Have you ever taken a good look in the mirror when you’ve felt stressed out and very near the end of your rope? If so, you’re probably been taken aback at the wild-eyed, flushed, and flustered image that stared back at you. We manifest physical stress in some very visible ways and those effects aren’t all temporary. The more often you stress the more likely it is that you’ll start seeing long-term signs that are practically begging you to slow down and reexamine your workload.

  1. Fine Lines and Wrinkles: When we stress, our body jumps into fight or flight mode, sending nutrients to essential organs. Unfortunately, that means our skin doesn’t get as much oxygen or blood flow and that can mean more wrinkles and contours that are far from rounded.
  2. Pale, Sallow Skin: All the top beauty products promise to deliver a healthy glow and dewy skin. Why? Because so many of us are struggling with a dull, lackluster complexion, often due to stress taxing our digestive system so we’re not properly absorbing all the nutrients we need. Add to that a diet high in emotional foods like hamburgers and ice cream and you’ve got a buildup of toxins and the sad skin to prove it.
  3. Acne: Those breakouts you get every time a big presentation and family obligation collide? You can blame stress and that inflammatory response that comes with it.
  4. Dryness: Cortisol is a hydration killer. It saps skin’s normal level of lipids, removing the protective barrier that normally holds in fluids and depleting your body’s natural ability to retain water.
  5. Infections and Rashes: Healthy skin is a tight-knit network of cells that works tirelessly to block bacteria and environmental toxins from breaking through and corrupting the skin’s inner structures. Stress loosens that network, allowing enough room for irritants to enter and do their worst.

Unfortunately, researchers at Yale University have also found a link between stress and cancer, include a deadly form of skin cancer called melanoma. That doesn’t mean that stress will necessarily give you melanoma, but it’s a correlation worth following as scientists strive to learn more.

3 Strategies for Saying Goodbye to Stress

All that frightening telomere damage we were talking about before? There’s some great news: shortened telomeres aren’t necessarily a permanent thing. If you reduce your stress, you can reverse many of the signs and symptoms of aging and regain your wellness in some very impactful ways.

  1. Learn to Relax: Take some time to soak in a bubble bath, visit a day spa, or simply curl up with a good book and your favorite playlist on your iPod. Pressing pause on whatever is stressing you out gives you a chance to refresh and revisit the problem from a place of peace and strength – something that might keep you from boiling over when you least expect it.
  2. Fuel Your Body: You can’t expect stellar output from an engine that’s getting nothing but subpar sustenance. A handful of M&Ms for breakfast, a vending machine raid for lunch, and nothing but nachos for dinner may seem justified when you’re too tired to explore healthier options but the results are simply not worth the convenience. If you can, prep meals ahead of time so you can nosh on whole grains, lean protein, and lots of veggies even when your day goes down the tubes faster than a speeding bullet. For those days when you’re more likely to win an Oscar than cook a dinner rich in omega-3s and antioxidants, try to balance out the bucket of french fries with a multivitamin and a green juice.
  3. Use High-Quality Beauty Products: Your skin deserves to be pampered. When stress threatens to wreak havoc, wage war using the gentle effectiveness of beauty products infused with antioxidants, collagen boosters, and hyaluronic acid. Also look for labels that feature natural calming ingredients such as fruit extracts, aloe vera, chamomile, licorice, and calendula; they smell delicious, feel great, and can help reduce redness and inflammation.

Life is full of adversity, but taking time out for yourself can help you keep your sanity and preserve your youthful contours. Eat right, get some rest, and don’t be afraid to step back and regain your composure. Your body and your skin will thank you.