Is it healthier to have stress or no stress in your life?
It depends. As you would expect, longevity and well-being tend to be greater for those with less stress in their lives rather than more stress but no control over it. Studies found clear signs of accelerated aging in those who reported the least control over their lives.
Surprisingly, however, you tend to live the longest, feel happiest, and have the strongest immune system when you DO have stress if it is under your control rather than if you have practically no stress at all. Stress causes cortisol, and having too little cortisol can be just as unhealthy as having too much. Active participation in directing your life with its inherent difficulties turns out to be better than passive acceptance of an easy life or helplessness in face of a difficult life.
Life is rarely stress-free because it requires us to deal with the unknown. However, the more practice we get in handling the unknown, the more confidently we can approach life. The same hold true for hardships; the more actively we endeavor to handle hardships, the greater our ability to take appropriate action in the future.
A good anti-aging tip, therefore, is to only focus on difficulties you can do something about. Taking control requires taking positive steps to deal with challenges, not simply ignoring them and suppressing the resulting stress. Such steps include
~ prioritizing your life,
~ changing your situation,
~ changing your perspective, and — just as important —
~ relieving the mounting tension in healthy ways such as exercising, relaxing with friends or family, and developing a sense of humor.
The violin makes its most beautiful resonance only when its strings are under enough tension.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD