Stress is an inevitable aspect of life. Various internal or external factors can trigger stress that affects mood, self-esteem, well-being, behavior, and physical health. Some stress is part of normal life. If it still exists, it is a problem.
Without control, what could begin as short-term frustration can eventually become long-term suffering. The effects of life-threatening long-term stress include high blood pressure, obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.
Life span is linked to DNA
Recent studies have shown that prolonged exposure to endless stress in life can seriously damage important parts of DNA, which in turn can reduce the average life expectancy of individuals. Those who suffer from chronic stress run the risk of shortening telomeres, which are cap-like structures at the end of each DNA strand to protect the chromosomes. The damage done to this telomere causes errors in the way DNA requests the cells to behave. Therefore, the length depends directly on the life expectancy.
One of the main results of eroded and shortened telomeres is an increased risk of genetic mutations in healthy cells and genes. The onset of an unusual genetic code like this increases a person’s susceptibility to cancer and many other illnesses that shorten life, along with poor overall physical and mental health. In addition, repeated stress disturbs the immune system. With a weak immune system, susceptibility to various infections increases, making it difficult for the body to fight diseases, including cancer.
Depending on individual coping strategies, genetic predispositions and general health conditions, there is ample evidence from research to prove that accumulated stress combined with mood swings can reduce lifespan by four to eight years.
Handling stress effectively is the key
According to the findings of a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), the nationwide average stress levels are on the rise since 2014. Here are some ways to reduce stress in both the short- as well as long-term:
- Participating in physical activity: Doing exercises, such as brisk walking, running, dancing or yoga, on a regular basis can metabolize the excessive stress hormones in the body.
- Seeking social support: Talking is an outlet to release the piled-up emotions and tensions. Sharing one’s feelings with others can help reduce stress to a certain extent.
- Finding time to laugh: As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine,” it certainly helps alleviate some of the stress as the brain is linked to emotions and facial expressions.
- Taking control of situations: Learning newer strategies to find solutions to the problems that may seem unsolvable on the surface can lower a lot of stress.
- Practicing meditation: Practicing some form of mindfulness can help the body release many stress-related negative emotions and relax.
The way forward
Any kind of stress can make life hell. But there is hope, provided the symptoms are not ignored and followed up at the right time. Treatment and support can help change the negative attitude that develops as a result of stress for all people with mental health problems. However, in patients with persistent stress, recovery may take a little longer than usual.
Identify yourself today. Get to know the symptoms of your body. If you are unsure about your body, contact your doctor immediately.