Healthy Aging and Stress

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about exercise and healthy eating as important aspects of healthy aging.

Another very important aspect is reducing stress.

Stress Affects Your Body, Mind, and Behaviour

Stress can affect all aspects of your well-being: your body, your mental/emotional state, and your behaviour. Stress can manifest in various ways. Oftentimes, you may think you have an illness when really you’re experiencing the effects of stress.

Signs and symptoms of stress are sleep problems, muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, and fatigue. Stress can also affect your mental/emotional state, causing you to feel anxious, depressed, restless, irritable, or angry. Feeling this way can affect your behaviour, causing you to exercise less, eat less healthy food, overeat, or undereat. Stress may also lead you to abuse drugs or alcohol, withdraw socially, and have angry outbursts.

Prolonged Stress Takes a Toll on Your Health

Some of the long-term health consequences of high stress levels are heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

If you recognized any of these signs and symptoms of stress in yourself, it’s time to make some lifestyle changes that reduce your stress levels.

Activities that involve staring at screens, such as playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV may make you feel like you’re taking a break, but they may increase your stress levels in the long term. Recent research shows that prolonged screen time, especially TV and video games, increases stress levels because it increases stress hormones (cortisol and norepinephrine) in the body and can cause sleep problems.

Make sure you take time out of your busy schedule to relax and recharge. Engage in activities that truly help you relax, such as

  • socializing with friends
  • exercising regularly
  • doing relaxing hobbies, such as gardening, reading, listening to music, or playing a musical instrument
  • doing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, tai chi, or yoga
  • getting a massage
  • spending time in nature

Eating a healthy diet, drinking alcohol and caffeine in moderation, not smoking, and getting enough sleep will also help you reduce stress.

Start making changes in your life now to reduce your stress so you can avoid the long-term health problems it can cause.