Well-documented research suggests that chronic stress is linked to a number of serious medical conditions. Chronic stress weakens the immune system, makes us susceptible to depression and degrades our overall quality of life. According to stress expert David Posen, M.D. and author of "Work is Killing You," people who are chronically stressed look and feel tired. Here are five ways that stress may be making you physically less attractive.
1. Accelerated Aging
Work-related stress shortens protein camps at the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres. When telomeres become too short, the cells die or become damaged. This pushes aging into overdrive and increases the risk of developing chronic diseases. Highly stressed individuals often develop very deep and noticeable frown lines.
2. Weight Gain
Some people stop eating when they are stressed, but many reach for the wrong foods, which can cause weight gain. When people are stressed they often crave foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. A study conducted by Yale University found that elevated stress hormones were correlated with extra abdominal fat in slender women.
3. Dull and Dry Skin
Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes the skin to look dull and lifeless, according to dermatologist Jessica Krant M.D. Too much cortisol causes free radicals to build up and these in turn damage skin cells. Dehydrated skin has been linked to psychological stress in women, according to a published study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
4. Brittle Nails
Fingernails, like skin, reflect a person’s overall state of wellbeing. Chronic stress can result in peeling nails or nails that break easily and do not grow well, becoming unhealthy very quickly. Stress can also encourage bad habits such as biting nails, which does little for their health and appearance.
Are you dreaming of that clear and flawless complexion? It is unlikely you will find it if you are frequently stressed. Cortisol, that nasty little stress hormone, stimulates oil production, which can lead to an outbreak of acne. A 2003 study done at Stanford linked severe acne in students to periods when they were taking exams.
Manage Stress with Effective Natural Plant Extracts
Kava – the Happy Root
One amazing natural therapy for stress is kava, a shrub member of the pepper family. Kava makes its home in the South Pacific islands where it is ingrained in social and religious customs and medicinal therapies and is often referred to as the “root of happiness.”
Kava has a calming effect on the body and produces changes in brain waves that are similar to those seen in drugs including Valium. An ever-expanding body of research supports kava's calming effects and ability to relieve anxiety, restlessness, muscle tension and even pain. Cognitive function is not impaired with kava, nor is it addictive. Both the American Herbal Products Association and the World Health Organization have conducted tests on the safety and effectiveness of this herb.
Kava is an extremely important export crop for many Pacific islanders. It takes about 2-5 years to grow, and is now well protected in many parts of the world. The most potent organic source of kava in the world grows in Vanuatu, where the so-called “happiest people on earth” are found. Although the substance looks and tastes like muddy water, Vanuatu is one of the only places where kava is prepared the old fashioned way, preserving all of its therapeutic benefits. While the appearance and taste take a little getting used to, the benefits of this incredible herb are certainly worth pursuing.
Other Stress Reducing Herbs
Kava is in good company with other well-researched natural anti-stress relieving herbs including:
Passionflower: This beautiful flower is known for its calming properties and effective use as a sleep aid. Passionflower is the perfect complement to our hurried culture and can quickly take the edge off of a supercharged day. A number of studies confirm this flower’s sedative and anxiolytic effects.
Lobelia: Lobelia has a long history of use as a muscle relaxant and has also been found to decrease adrenaline in the body. As lobelia reduces tension, it also slows and strengthens the heartbeat, calms and deepens breathing and is beneficial in halting anxiety attacks.
St. Johns Wort: This herb is one of the most commonly used herbs in the United States. It is best known for its ability to remedy mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Studies show that people who take St.John’s wort on a daily basis experience reduced anxiety and an improved sense of overall well being.
Pulsatilla: Also known as European pasque flower and Easter flower, this ancient herb is used by herbalists to soothe nerves, relieve tension and pain and treat headaches and insomnia.
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Posen, D., 2013. Is Work Killing You? A Doctor's Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress. House of Anansi Press.
Talbott, S., 2007. The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health. Hunter House.
"Stress and Acne". Kam, K., WebMD, n.d., Web.
Lebot, V., Merlin, M., and L. Lindstrom. 1997. Kava. The Definitive Guide to its Ethnobotany, History, and Chemistry. Healing Arts Press.
Sahelian M.D., R., 1998. Kava. The Miracle Anti Anxiety Herb. St. Martin's Paperbacks.
Kilham, C. 1996. Kava: Medicine Hunting in Paradise: The Pursuit of a Natural Alternative to Anti-Anxiety Drugs and Sleeping Pills. Park Street Press