April is Stress Awareness Month. The month-long observance aims to educate people about how to avoid the damaging effects of stress. Chronic stress has been linked to a number of medical conditions. It can lead to depression, weaken the immune system, and degrade a person’s overall quality of life.
Stress not only hurts your health, it can also detract from the way you look. Chronically stressed people often seem to be older than their real age. Here are some ways stress can negatively influence your physical appearance:
- Accelerated aging – Stress is responsible for the shortening of the telomeres, which are like little caps located at the end of the chromosomes. When the telomeres shrink, cells can die or become damaged. This will hasten the aging process and even intensify the risk for certain chronic diseases.
- Weight gain – When some people are stressed, they turn to food for comfort. Not only do they overeat, they often eat the wrong kinds of foods, such as those that are high in sugar, fat, or salt content. Stress can also lead to increased weight around the stomach area. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between the elevation of stress hormones and the accumulation of abdominal fat in non-obese women.
- Dull and dry skin – Cortisol levels go up when a person is under stress. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause the skin to look dull and lifeless. Elevated cortisol levels allow free radical damage to the skin. Studies have established a correlation between dull, dry skin and stress in women.
- Brittle nails – Chronic stress often results in unhealthy fingernails that break and peel. One reason for this is that many people have the habit of biting their nails when they are under stress.
- Acne – Just as stress-induced cortisol levels cause premature aging in skin, they can also lead to acne. Cortisol stimulates oil production which can in turn lead to breakouts. As an example of this phenomenon, it is well-documented that many students experience acne breakouts during examination periods.
Look for ways to eliminate stress from your life. You will look and feel better as you do.