stress and Healthy Aging

Stress and Healthy Aging – The Relationship Between Healthy Aging and Stress

Stress is a significant factor influencing the aging process; however, it is essential to understand that stress itself is not the root problem. In fact, stress is a necessary part of our lives, enabling us to function optimally. Hans Selye coined the term “eu-stress,” referring to the positive stress we experience as excitement, passion, enthusiasm, or even love. This type of stress contributes to our well-being and keeps us functioning at our best.

A familiar example of eu-stress can be found in sports.

The effort exerted during activities that excite us, such as rallying speed, strength, or endurance, represents a healthy endeavor. It promotes muscle growth, cardiovascular development, and the unlocking of physical potential. Consequently, it is highly beneficial. When I go to the gym, I actively seek out this type of stress through exercises that challenge specific muscle groups, promoting strength and flexibility.

Consider a stress scale ranging from 0 to 10.

At the lowest end, zero, represents a state of inactivity, where nothing is alive or in motion. Slightly higher values, between 1 and 3, indicate minimal stress associated with rest, relaxation, or healthy sleep. Conversely, within the range of eu-stress (4 to 6), we find the healthy level of stress required for growth and vitality. This principle applies to both the body and the mind. However, beyond this range, from 7 to 10, lies the dangerous territory of excessive stress. Living within this range, except during emergencies, is unfavorable for our well-being.

What is Stress?

The term “stress” encompasses any stimulus that activates our mind, body, and emotions, demanding a response to confront challenges. As long as these challenges remain within the realm of eu-stress, we can handle them effectively, even finding them exciting and invigorating. However, when stress surpasses this threshold, it becomes a threat or an overwhelming burden. The brain perceives these situations as signals to trigger the general arousal syndrome, leading to the release of adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. Consequently, the heart and lungs work harder, diverting blood from the brain and stomach toward larger muscle groups. This response prepares us for fighting, fleeing, or freezing in the face of extreme danger.

When acute stress occurs temporarily, it serves as a helpful response to emergencies, allowing us to return to a normal state afterward. However, when stress becomes a regular occurrence or, worse, a chronic condition, it exacerbates existing illnesses or leads to the development of new ones. Chronic stress lies at the core of cardiovascular diseases.

In reality, stress itself is not inherently problematic.

The issue lies in how individuals manage it or, more accurately, fail to manage it. Key factors include our perception of stress, our ability to handle overload, our tendency to accumulate excessive demands in daily life, and our interpretation of psychological issues as physical threats.

Contrary to the notion that stress accelerates aging, it is our perception of stress that truly affects the aging process. Fearing and resenting stress, as well as constantly living with it, contribute to premature aging. In contrast, effectively managing stress and possessing the necessary resources to handle it helps maintain youthfulness in both body and spirit. Living above the eu-stress level (7 to 10 on the stress scale) is what truly exhausts and ages us.

How To Manage Stress and Healthy Aging.

To effectively manage stress, it is important to reframe situations that are not genuine threats or dangers but rather psychological fears. Additionally, building resources to tackle everyday challenges and adopting stress-reducing practices can help quickly alleviate stress from our bodies. Slowing down, focusing on one task at a time, and being fully present in each activity are choices that enable us to manage stress effectively. These are the things that you can choose to do that will enable you to manage stress and prevent it from undermining healthy aging.

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