Let’s face it. Life can be stressful. There are moments when I look in the mirror and see the sign of stress related aging. There are days I wish I could go back and be a kid again, when my biggest concern was getting my homework done in time to play outside before it got dark. Though I have never seen the movie, sometimes I would love to be Benjamin Button, living life in reverse.
The truth is, even though we would love to, we can’t take away life’s stressors. We can, however, control how we choose to deal with them. Though I have always been one who handled stress fairly well, there was a time a few years ago when it all just felt like too much. I was just fried, done, caput. Stress related insomnia had me wide awake at night and sluggish during the day. As a lifelong “tired eater” I was also consuming way too much of the wrong foods.
Then, I took back control. Hey, that’s what a control-freak does best, right? Though there was a lot at that time that was out of my hands, there were still a few things I could get a handle on, particularly the basics. At that time I discovered that I cope better with stress when I have more sleep, so more sleep became a priority. I broke out my food diary and started making myself accountable for all those empty calories. And I began a new exercise program, the type that kept me wanting more rather than making excuses to stop.
We always joke around that stress gives us gray hairs, as evident by the way our Presidents always age so rapidly while in office. During periods of heightened stress, our bodies can accelerate the aging of our immune cells, making us look older, feel older, and way more susceptible to disease.
Apparently, I was on to something with those lifestyle changes. A new study from the University of California at San Francisco found that while the impact of stress can accumulate over time and accelerate aging, those negative effects may be lessened by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising and sleeping well.
The study found that people who exercised, slept well and ate a healthy diet had less cellular aging than people who did not maintain a healthy lifestyle when those people were under similar levels of stress. However, if we focus on our lifestyle, particularly in times of stress, we can potentially protect ourselves from those negative effects of stress related aging and stress related illnesses.
Eat well. Maintain a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, and lean protein and vegetables. Don’t skimp on your Omega-3’s. Drink green tea. Utilize mindful eating strategies. Reduce your saturated fat intake. Look for organic options when possible.
Exercise. Do heart rate increasing exercises for a significant amount of time at least three times a week. Go for a run, take a hike, walk on the treadmill, do yoga, take a class, work out with a trainer – whatever gets you going and helps you stay motivated.
Sleep well. Develop good sleeping habits and maintain a calming environment for sleep in your home. If you have trouble, consider a natural alternative such as melatonin or essential oils to help you rest better. (If you have any questions about which essential oils to use, shoot me an email at Jessica@EatSleepBe.com and I’ll help you out.) Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the right options for you. Getting regular exercise early the day should also help you to sleep better at night. Just make sure that you are not exercising too close to bedtime.
So take it from me, and from science. Stay active, eat healthy, and sleep well. Because life is stressful.