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Stress, Aging, and Why COVID-19 Has You Feeling Older

We're all under a lot of stress these days. COVID-19 has disrupted routines and rituals, added immense workloads to our plates, and left us impatient, isolated, and grieving. It's no wonder you feel like you've aged a decade in the past year.

All that stress you're under isn't just making you feel older. Chronic stress ages the brain and the body with health effects that range from impaired mental agility to clogged arteries. Negative thought patterns like pessimism, rumination, and avoidance have also been linked to short telomeres, a primary cause of aging.

So what's the key to overcoming stress and getting your youth back? Mindfulness. It empowers us to overcome the harmful habits and patterns we fall into under stress and grow more resilient for the future. From how you think to how you eat, sleep, and care for your body, these mindfulness habits are the key to feeling younger in body and mind.

At Elevate Yoga & Wellness, our unique combination of mat and aerial yoga promotes the integration of mind, body, and spirit for better overall health and wellness. Enroll in a class with us today!

Control your thoughts; don't let them control you.

Everyone experiences stress — there's no avoiding it. It's what you do with your stress that matters. Do stressful thoughts consume you, replaying in your mind over and over, or do you let problematic thoughts pass instead of spiraling out of control?

Meditation, especially open awareness meditation, helps you take control of your thoughts so you don't get stuck in rigid and unhelpful patterns of thinking. By cultivating awareness, you increase your mental agility and let go of biased perceptions.

Practice mindful nutrition.

Does anxiety manifest in your gut? For some people, stress announces itself loudly with stomach pain and unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms.

Whether stress has your stomach on edge or you're self-medicating with comfort food, mindful eating promotes a healthier gut and mind. Mindful eating teaches you to pay attention to the body's cues to avoid overeating, slow down your meals, and make better food choices.

Take care of your teeth.

Stress can also wreak havoc on your mouth. Without proper stress management, you may find yourself clenching your jaw, grinding your teeth, or not regularly brushing your teeth, which can lead to gum disease. Crooked teeth or a misaligned bite can also cause stress and can make it difficult to reach all the areas of your teeth with a toothbrush and floss.

While brushing and flossing should always be a part of your oral care, it's also a good idea to invest in aligners if your teeth are crowded or your bite is misaligned. Clear aligners are a discreet option compared to metal braces, and can also be convenient if you go with an at-home treatment like Byte or Candid. However, for severe bite issues and teeth crowding, it's best to be treated at the dentist's office, in which case you can choose from treatment options like Invisalign or ClearCorrect. Research your options carefully to see which clear aligners will be best for your teeth. Having a healthier smile can make a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Exercise for your body and brain.

Exercise is another important part of feeling energized, both physically and mentally. Exercise not only reduces stress hormones for a more uplifted mood, but it also promotes brain plasticity and growth in the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

You'll reap the most brain benefits from mind-body exercises. This includes traditional mindfulness movements like yoga, tai chi, and qigong, but you can also tap into the mind-body connection with long-distance running, martial arts, and Pilates.

Adopt mindful rituals.

It's not just the big self-care habits that make a difference. Little moments throughout each day set the mood for your body and mind. To feel uplifted, energized, and calm, incorporate simple, yet powerful self-care rituals into your routine:

  • Go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.

  • Start each day with an intention.

  • Spend time in the sunlight.

  • Curb stress with simple breathing exercises.

  • Stretch.

  • Meditate.

  • Do something with focus.

  • Connect with someone.

  • Be compassionate to yourself.

  • Express gratitude.

You may not be able to reverse your years on this planet, but you can change how old you feel. When life has you feeling worn down, discouraged, and like you have little left to give, as it does for so many of us right now, don't get stuck there. Through mindfulness, you can move past stress and start feeling like YOU again.

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