A team of researchers has discovered that severe emotional distress, as experienced by those who divorce, lose a job, or care for an ill child or parent, accelerates the aging process up to a whole decade. The investigation was able to accurately quantify the aging process by measuring observable changes to the subject’s genes. This is the first scientific study to link psychological stress to physical aging. Are any of us surprised?

We all know when people tell us, “Oh, you look tired.” They mean, “You look old.” Just reading the report makes my hair turn gray because sooner or later all of us encounter stress and become caregivers, falling into more stressful categories than the article can possibly list. However, the laboratory confirmation of what we all know does not need to stress us out even more. Instead, I would like to use this study as a catalyst for alerting everyone to make it a top priority to reduce stress.

If stress speeds up the clock then the opposite is true: De-stressing slows down (and may even reverse) the clock. The most common question people ask me, “How do I manage my hectic, stressful existence and feel happy?” I think the best answer to this question is: “Do you want to? Are you determined to live?”

Here are a few proven methods for reversing your biological clock to look and feel a decade younger:

  • Exercise – many of us resist this method the most because it requires that we love and care for ourselves! But exercise reduces stress within 15 minutes and the effects last throughout the day. You can calibrate your exercise to match your stress level. If you have more stress, you can exercise a little longer or more intensely. Find a workout that you will enjoy and which will fit your personality, schedule, and other considerations. If your schedule makes it difficult to work out for 30 continuous minutes then the good news is that you can workout 3 times a day for ten minutes each, for short bursts of optimism. Exercise with fast upbeat music for greater de-stressing synergy. The youth enhancing benefits are: better posture, more bone and muscle mass, a spring in your step, better circulation and lower blood pressure. Need I continue?
  • Eat balanced meals to adequately fuel your body and your brain. Your brain needs a minimum of 1200 calories a day to function. Eating fruits and vegetables closest to their natural state will help you absorb more nutrients and prevent free-radical damage to your cells. Eat more omega 3’s to reduce inflammation.
  • Expand your vulnerability and ask for help! You will be surprised to learn how many people would love to help you. Connect more deeply to them and delegate those overwhelming tasks.
  • Tap into your creative energy. When something destructive is going on in your mind and body, go the opposite route and get creative! To reverse the aging process, lose track of time by immersing yourself in a beloved hobby.
  • Cultivate your own identity - you have one that is separate from your charge! Do not lose yourself and who you are. When people greet you, don’t say, “How do you do, I’m divorced”, “I am a mother of an autistic child”, “I have a parent with Alzheimer’s.” Instead, say your first name.
  • Go with the flow. Life is a river and we never know where it will take us. Yield to what you cannot change and watch how your facial muscles relax and your body returns to a state of calm. Our bodies are composed of mostly water. Most religions use water as a ritual of purification. There is a reason for it. Become more fluid in your daily interactions with others.
  • A sense of humor is our best defense for dealing with daily stressors. Cultivate your comic eye and release the pain.
  • Connect to a larger context. Is there a cause you believe in? Connect to a group outside your family to involve yourself in this cause.
Author's Bio: 

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB 1240AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com