So a couple things inspired me to write this blog about aging… ‘tis the season for me. Spring has always meant wonderful things to me: my birthday, lacrosse season and the end of tax season! In my previous world, April 16th was one of the most celebrated days of the year- tax busy season was over and my co-workers and I could finally get back to normal life: and out of our 4 month hibernation period of working, eating, sleeping, repeat. My busy seasons were some of the most grueling months of my life, and I put my body through hell- physically with the horrible food choices + caffeine overload and mentally with the surprise deadlines and work-til-dawn stress.
There was a running joke in the office that one busy season was equal to 2 years of aging in your face…the sad part was that it was closer to the truth than fiction! The easiest way to notice was looking at your professional headshots over the years…
Now I know not everyone goes through tax busy seasons, but every one of us goes through periods of extreme stress, where we put our own needs 2nd to those of work, family, school, you name it! These are periods of chronic stress- continuous, on going without letting up. Over time, stress overload can cause a chronic imbalance of stress hormones that can lead to aging rapidly.
Our bodies have mechanisms of dealing with real, life-threatening stress (like Fight or Flight), but when we don’t live in a state of life or death, we run those resources unrelenting when we’re under chronic stress.
Stress chemicals like cortisol are released in the body, shutting down all systems that aren’t necessary for survival. Cortisol interferes with learning, memory, lowers our immune system, increases weight gain, blood pressure and cholesterol! Stress chemicals cause biological changes, breaking our body down including cell damage. Thus, it’s no surprise that stress is one of the biggest contributors to premature aging.
In addition to putting our body and mind in harm’s way, there are other problems with sacrificing our personal health and wellness for (insert your excuse here….the deadline, exams, kids, etc.). Stress causes people to take care of themselves less, creating unhealthy lifestyle changes to adapt to this new anxious lifestyle. Studies show anxious, chronically stressed people tend to:
- Eat poor
- Exercise less
- Drink more alcohol
- Rely on medication
So what to do?! Because it’s not that easy to switch your mindset and pay attention to what YOU need. I know, firsthand, that this is an issue that affects us, our sister, friends, mothers, bosses, etc. I actually sought out the top experts in the field of lifestyle wellness and interviewed each one to their best strategies and secrets to get back to balance. You can sign up for the WHOLE interview series here, but here’s a sneak peak:
- Lack of Sleep! Not getting enough sleep can inhibit how we function during the day, not to mention lead us to consume more caffeine, energy drinks, and greasy comfort foods. There are physiological reasons for this that I discuss in my interview with Dr. Oz’s Sleep Doctor in our upcoming summit (Click here to register).
- Mental decline- studies show that letting go of stress can help you avoid cognitive impairment and keep your mind young. It’s not only detrimental to your long-term health, but makes tasks take twice as long and increases frequent mistakes. Kiss efficiency goodbye!
- The Enemy of Fun! One of my friends actually coined that phrase, but it really is true! A person who is always running around, worried about something and stressed about what they did, didn’t do, or should will not be the life of the party, or even on the invite list…take care of YOU so your personality can really shine through!
- Take Care of It! Are you one of those people running around always taking care of other people? While it’s good to be in tune with the needs of others, it doesn’t make sense to run yourself ragged while doing so. Think of a school bus- its job is to safely and efficiently help students get home. But if that school bus ignores its own needs (like filling up with gas), some of those kids are going to be stranded!
Most importantly being constantly stressed out prevents us from thinking clearly and blocks our ability to “show up” 100% to whatever we do. Don’t turn into an exhausted flake who can’t commit! Take a deep breath and think about what you want to invite into your life, and where you can do some Spring-cleaning!
Live your WHOLE life,
Shannon + Meg