Chronic, unrelenting stress -- the kind that modern life is too full of -- changes your brain and body in all sorts of ways. Memory slips. Blood pressure rises. You gain fat around your belly, the unhealthiest place to put on pounds. This is called visceral fat because it’s deeply embedded around your vital organs, thus increasing your risk for heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. Your immune system takes a hit and you become more susceptible to infections. (Which explains why you’re more likely to get a cold when you are overworked or overwrought.) Wound healing slows by as much as 40 percent, oil glands go into overdrive, and inflammation takes off. Plus, free radicals proliferate and run wild, subtly damaging skin and eventually drying it out, creating wrinkles and turning softness to sag. What’s more, some elements within the skin, including the hair follicles, are supersensitive to stress hormones. This may explain why some people lose their hair or grow it in the wrong places after a serious bout of emotional stress as hormones send the wrong message or no message at all. No, stress has nothing to do with the growing shag on your husband’s back -- that’s caused by different hormones!
Unfortunately, the ability to turn off the stress response, and return cortisol levels to normal, appears to decline with age. And, as these negative factors persist, your antioxidant defense mechanism takes a hit, leaving you vulnerable to disease and accelerated aging on the inside and outside.
Few people can weather and wear stress well. While you may not so easily see clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and abdominal fat, for example, in someone, you can usually see the signs of stress in her appearance.
From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.