Recently, I read an article about the correlation of stress and aging.

Recently, I read an article about the correlation of stress and aging.
My question was: Does stress cause aging, or does aging cause stress?
My next question was: What is stress, anyway?
For that answer, I searched the Internet and got a wonderful answer in pictures.
The first picture was a cartoon of an office worker who was obviously “stressed out.”
The man’s in-box is piled three-feet high, his computer is putting out radiation, his shirt and tie are askew, his hands are trembling, his teeth are clenched, the clock behind him says four o’clock and his phone is ringing!
The next cartoon was a zebra who was losing his stripes — they were unraveling like a rope.
The poor zebra said, “I think it’s stress!”
And the third one was in a hospital setting. A nurse is reporting to a stressed patient, “I’m afraid you failed your stress test.”
The patient’s response is “AAAARGH!”
Overwork, losing your stripes, failing a stress test. All three match the dictionary definition of stress — “mental, emotional, or physical strain caused, for example, by anxiety or overwork.”
And the dictionary goes on to say that stress “may cause symptoms, such as raised blood pressure or depression.”
Research confirms the dictionary assessment. It’s common knowledge stress makes a person prone to illness. And a study at the University of California at San Francisco found severe stress also speeds the aging process.
Researchers Elissa Epel and Elizabeth Blackburn reported chronic stress speeds up the rate at which our cells age by 10 years or more.
Blackburn says that means, “Over the long term, we lose the race.” And that is one race we can’t afford to lose!
So what can we do to “un-stress” ourselves?
Janie Walters’ book “Blow a Bubble, Not a Gasket: 101 Ways to Reduce Stress and Add Fun to Your Life” is a good place to start.
Janie’s first tip is “Blow Bubbles.” It is this idea that attracted me to her book. I love blowing bubbles!
Blowing bubbles is fun — for children and adults. The bubbles are so beautiful and fragile as they sparkle in the sun.
In fact, part of their beauty is their fragility. You have to pay attention and enjoy the moment.
Since I spend so much time at the computer, I try to have a picture on my desktop that makes me smile every time I glance at it.
Now my screen is midnight blue with floating soap bubbles. How can I be stressed with such a scene!
If you don’t want to blow bubbles, Walters’ book suggests 100 other ways to relax and have fun.
Whistle a happy tune. Declare a “do nothing” day. Make homemade ice cream. Experiment with exotic foods. Watch a funny movie. Sip from crystal glasses. Send a funny greeting card (or e-mail).
And most important of all: Smile. Walters writes, “The difference in the way it makes you feel is amazing!”
Always remember that adding fun to life can offset the impact of stress. So why not blow some bubbles today!

© 2011 Marie Snider

Marie Snider is an award-winning health-care writer and syndicated columnist. Write Marie Snider at or visit her Web site at