Stress ages the skin very quickly, and chronic stress will have you wrinkling before your time. According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, here’s what happens in your body when you get stressed:
Once the body’s stress response is triggered, your brain and hormones move quickly. First, your hypothalamus, an almond-size control center deep within your brain, sends messages to your adrenal glands. These glands then send cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and adrenaline, the chemical messenger that causes you to jump when someone surprises you, through your bloodstream. The hormones pull sugar from your liver and fatty acids from your fat cells to push your muscles into action.
As the stress cascade continues, your heart races, your breath shortens and your pupils dilate. Adrenaline squashes your appetite so you can concentrate. Finally, stress hormones help your brain take photographlike pictures of what’s happening at that very instant — perhaps so you will never forget it.
It might be a comfort to know that your body’s stress response is perfectly natural, as hardwired as feeling hungry or tired. The fight-or-flight response helped our ancestors run from tigers and survive famines.
Today, when those types of threats are fewer, Dr. Morledge says that some of us — particularly retirees — could stand a bit of productive stress (note the word productive). “Adding the good kind of stress is basically adding meaningful challenges to our lives,” he explains. “Projects and deadlines energize people.”
While the stress response may sound energizing and exciting, it soon delivers a fatiguing hangover. Too much adrenaline leaves you burned-out the next day, slowing your reflexes. Your sex drive drops, which is nature’s way of keeping you attuned to the threat at hand. And cortisol can make you susceptible to viral infections, such as outbreaks of cold sores, since it lowers immune system resistance.
Taking time to meditate, to get plenty of sleep and to exercise will do wonders for your stress levels and your complexion. Find stress reduction resources and information about Dr. Mike Roizen’s StressFreeNow program at the Cleveland Clinic at www.360-5.com.