Stress Never Really Goes Away

by Liz Colville

Telomeres, oh, telomeres. These strands of DNA at the end of our chromosomes — they’re like “the little plastic caps at the end of shoelaces, keeping everything intact” — get shorter as we get older, and they tell us a lot about how we’re aging — possibly even how we’re going to die. Probably of stress, because stress is everywhere and everything.

Stress is one of the factors that “gnaws away” at our telomeres, and according to Danielle Friedman, author of the new book Stress Less (which is targeted at women), stress is particularly horrible for us because:

When we encounter a stressful situation, we enter our primitive “fight or flight” mode, in which our brain signals our bodies to release potent stress hormones that, if we were actually fighting or fleeing, would help us to perform our best. Yet for many of us today, because the stress doesn’t end once we spear the moose or escape to our cave, those hormones remain in our blood, wreaking havoc on our bodies. And as we work to fend off the damage, our cells reproduce more quickly.

GREAT! And in case you forgot, stress is really just an umbrella term for all the rude things you might do to your body, like diet drastically or not exercise or forget to eat fish. Friedman’s advice for keeping stress low isn’t that original: take Omega-3s, exercise, eat “mindfully,” and, um, “be optimistic,” among other things. If that doesn’t work, because come on, that is a lot of balls to have in the air, try the wine approach!