STRESS AND ANXIETY
Stress is a natural part of living and the body’s systems are finely tuned to deal with stress.
However, too much stress and for too long can overload body systems and is a cause of illness, anxiety and accelerated ageing. Understanding the nature of stress and anxiety and how to release it is an important tool for living well.
CHROMOSOMES AND TELOMERES
One of the challenges for scientists has been to work out why psychological stress seems to damage the body physically. And the secret may be in shoelaces.
Well, not the laces, but the ends of them. And not the shoelace ends exactly, but things just like them, called telomeres, at the end of our chromosomes. This amazing discovery was made by Professor Elizabeth Blackwell who won the Nobel Prize for her work.
Chromosomes hold most of our genes. And telomeres are involved in ageing. Each time a cell divides, the telomere shortens, and when they become too short, the cell can no longer divide and “usually turns up its toes”. The key to this process is the enzyme telomerase.
In a landmark study by Professor Blackburn, women who had a child with a chronic illness, and were measurably under stress, were compared to women with low stress levels. The results showed that the longer the women had been under stress, the shorter their telomeres.
In fact, the most stressed women had cells that were about 10 years older than their chronological age. The unifying feature of this stress response was the body’s chronic secretion of the hormone cortisol.
Professor Blackburn’s work also uncovered a group of woman carers who had normal length telomeres. What was different about these women? It turns out these women had a regular meditation practice.
If you want to look at her work in depth here is a link to her TED talk.
So if you feel that you would like to be proactive and reduce your rate of stress-induced ageing consider meditation.
In meditation, you cultivate the ability to rest, in silence. The thinking mind continues to generate thoughts (that is how the mind works) but as you develop the skill to ignore this mind chatter, stress and anxiety resolve and in its place is a state of restful alertness of the mind and relaxation in the body. In this state the stress hormone cortisol reduces to a baseline healthy level. Even beginner meditators can benefit from meditation.
Registration for our Next More Than Meditation course is now open.
REDUCE YOUR BIOLOGIOCAL AGE
Taking care of your emotional health and well-being can reduce your biological age by up to 16 years younger. In addition your ability to deal with stress is likely to enable those around you to cope better and/or be encouraged to explore what may diminish their own stress levels.
Download this free Pathways To Wellbeing PDF guide as a reminder of all the ways you can decrease your biological age.