Many of us would relate graying hair and furrowed brow to stress. Some would assume, “it must be the weight of the world that’s adding years to them.” But does anxiety and stress really accelerate your aging process? Scientists have not fully understood this phenomenon just yet.

What We Understand Now

Small anxieties are the body’s natural response to perceived or real threats which is what we call the fight or flight reaction. When this is triggered, a two-way communication between our body and brain results in the activation of our biological, immune, and cardiovascular systems. In short, it’s our instinct to survive. When prolonged fight/flight reaction happens, it becomes maladaptive which wears our body down.

How Does This Happen?

Extensive studies point to three “stress chemicals” that are released in the body: cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline.

The production of cortisol raises fat storage, hardens arteries, increases blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Cortisol is also found to play a role in weakening the immune system, muscle and collagen loss, and osteoporosis.

Norepinephrine increases heart rate and can affect the brain to focus. At the same time, adrenaline is understood to accelerate the heart rate, decrease vision and hearing, and constrict our blood vessels.

The Effects of Prolonged Stress

When we experience prolonged stress, it causes our body to undergo negative internal changed which can advance the process of aging.

What are your thoughts on stress and aging? While there’s no hard evidence between the two, it’s safe to say that you should continue looking out for your wellbeing. Stressful situations, in itself, should be avoided as much as possible.

What You Can Do Now

Take some time to unwind and relax. Even if that’s only one hour per day, this can make all the difference. Have coffee with friends, watch a funny movie, read a book, cuddle with a pet, etc. You deserve the break!