You don’t hear much about the distinction between our chronological age and our physiological age. But when people say “age is just a number,” scientifically that is quite true. How you treat your body has a direct correlation to health and well-being. While many of us would attest to eating well and exercising regularly, an area we don’t address as well is the toll stress takes on our health and longevity.
In a nation where workaholism, “having it all,” and “work hard, play hard” are akin to a national anthem, we revere those who push their bodies and minds to capacity for results. While that may work to some extent when we are in our 20s and 30s, it is not sustainable into middle age. In fact we are likely accelerating aging by at least a decade from stress. Stress can do silent damage to almost every aspect of our health, appearance, and mental well-being.
How Stress Damages Our Organs
Our bodies respond to stress by releasing hormones that increase our heart and breathing rates and ready our muscles to respond. It’s the same fight-or-flight hormonal response needed when we are afraid and need to react swiftly. However, if our stress response keeps running after the “danger” has passed, and our stress levels stay elevated over a prolonged period of time, it can damage our bodies and our health.
According to WebMD stress can affect some of our organs in the following ways:
- Brain—Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Heart—Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Liver and Kidneys—Obesity and other eating disorders
- Uterus—Menstrual problems
- Reproductive systems—Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men, and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Skin—Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gut—Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
Organ reserve is the capacity for an organ to function beyond baseline needs. “Organ reserve” refers to the ability of an organ to successfully return to its original physiological state following repeated episodes of stress. Clinical evidence shows that organ reserve correlates with the ability of older adults to cope with an added workload or stress, suggesting a role in the process of aging.
When you’re around 18 years old you have about 8-10 times the organ reserve you need and that is why when someone that age has damage, they bounce back. By the time we are around 80 we have approximately 80 percent less of that original organ reserve. As we lose organ reserve, our resilience declines, and our biological age increases.
It is possible that there could be an increased healthspan of individuals after middle age, with reduced need for medical intervention, if we practiced the right things to preserve our organ reserve.
To prevent our organ reserves being depleted we need to manage our stress levels. A must for everyone after middle age is a biofeedback tool.
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a mind-body tool that involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over latent bodily functions. This includes gaining voluntary control over such things as heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow, pain perception, and blood pressure—all key players in a highly stressed system.
Biofeedback teaches us to be aware, through relaxation skills, and gives us ways to recognize, reduce, and control stress responses. It also teaches how to control the brain’s activity and maintain the proper brainwave levels to achieve calm and focus.
Below, I describe the features of my 3 favorite biofeedback apps.
The Inner Balance technology analyzes and displays our heart rhythm, measured by Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which indicates how emotional states are affecting our nervous system. HRV offers a unique window into the quality of communication between the heart and brain, which directly impacts how we feel and perform.
The Inner Balance technology trains us to self-generate a highly efficient physiological state called HRV coherence, which helps us increase emotional composure and clearer reasoning. Recommended by health professionals worldwide, HRV coherence training has been associated with many health and performance benefits. A few minutes of daily coherence practice has been shown to reduce and prevent the negative effects of stress, such as overwhelm, fatigue and exhaustion, sleep disruption, anxiety, and burnout.
HeartMath has been a pioneer in HRV research and self-regulation training for over 28 years. Over 250 independent peer-reviewed studies have been published on HeartMath technologies and methodologies.
Digipill uses psychoacoustics to allow you to unlock your subconscious and change your perception.
There are no gimmicks or binaural beats involved; instead, Digipill uses completely unique techniques inside carefully crafted audio ‘pills’ which typically play for around half an hour—although the effects can often last for much longer—sometimes even a lifetime.
The Digipill technique has been specifically designed to help with real life issues including giving up smoking, building up confidence, and getting to sleep. The technique can even be used to approach natural highs, not unlike that of some physical pills.
Simply choose a pill to suit the issue you’d like help with, sit back with some good quality headphones, and allow your mind to work with Digipill to unlock your subconscious.
Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool that provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body, and instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing exercises have been documented to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response, and help with mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management. Breathe2Relax can be used as a stand-alone stress reduction tool or can be used in tandem with clinical care directed by a healthcare worker. Breathe2Relax now uses HealthKit and your Apple Watch device to measure your heart rate throughout your breathing exercise to help provide an even more complete picture of the relaxation experienced.
A dynamic and creative executive, Audrey has guided household name brands in the health & wellness, travel & leisure, executive training and philanthropy sectors.
Her travel & leisure ventures include the launch of a Hawaiian island destination for Larry Ellison and the Four Seasons, taking a previously unknown locale to #1 in travel in the U.S. and among the Top 10 destinations in the world. The project included creating events and campaigns in partnership with Nobu, Jennifer Lopez, BMW, Serena Williams and various charities.
Audrey’s recent foray into the science sector includes working with Google Ventures, Amgen, Lilly, Genentech, Sanofi, Otsuka, Novartis, and AOBiome, through the recently launched biotech SaaS startup Science 37, which aims to disrupt and democratize the clinical trial process.
Her executive development experience includes building leadership models for trainers such as Tony Robbins, training over 30,000 managers worldwide and leading workshops on performance management to over 100,000 individuals across the U.S. She founded The HR Coach, which consults tech startups in training and developing remote management.
Audrey travels between Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin, enjoying personal time with her three xoloitzcuintles and her beau. Not to mention her total obsession with her big-bold-all-natural hair.