How do you manage stress? What lifestyle best describes you? A study, soon to be published in Molecular Psychiatry, from UC San Francisco looked at the impact lifestyle can have on the effects of stress. The researchers concluded that healthy living can buffer against stress-related cell aging. More specifically, they found that individuals who exercised, slept well and maintained a healthy diet were able to lower the effects of stress on our bodies. They also found that stress accelerates immune cell aging and the lifestyle we lead can directly impact this process. Of course, we’ve all seen people age dramatically in a short period of time especially when they’re under tremendous stress. Look at our current and past presidents for a clear example of stress on aging.
Some of us can be couch potatoes, emotional eaters, and/or poor sleepers. Which of these most affect you? It may be all three, especially when you’re under stress. The bad news is that stress is unavoidable and affects everyone. The good news is that you can do something about the impact stress has on your life. Join a gym, enlist an exercise buddy, put exercise on your daily schedule and make it happen. A recent study found that running consistently can add as much as three years to your life. Get moving!
We’re surrounded by food and need it to sustain our health. Our problem often is the quality and quantity of food we consume. Eating can be a social activity, but overeating may have more to do with seeking comfort from stress. Confronting and resolving emotion either in conversation or through writing can reduce our need for excessive amounts of comfort foods. We also may associate eating with certain activities like watching TV and numb our emotions with food through entertainment. Limit the food you have readily available in your home and find distracting activities when temptation arises. Sometimes flossing and brushing my teeth immediately after dinner can be a deterrent to eating more later that night.
Lastly sleeping without worrying, planning, and/or dwelling on something can sometimes be a challenge. Try keeping a journal and dumping your worries on paper. Engaging in an activity that relaxes you and helps to shut down your brain can also prove helpful. Create a positive and soothing routine that helps your body slow down before sleep. Avoid stimulating activities including the computer, rigorous exercise, disturbing or action packed movies, and news programming shortly before sleep. Be healthy and live longer!