How I’m Probably Aging Faster by Suppressing My Emotions and Stress

Are you one to bottle up your emotions and stress, only to erupt one day, without warning? We’re probably growing older… faster. This one’s written for people like us.

I recall a memory from my childhood where I had suddenly burst and shouted aggressively at my father.

I was a moody child, but never expressive or loud with my emotions. I was also a little reclusive, preferring to hide away and spending hours “ruminating”, thinking over and over about embarrassing events or upsetting occurrences and moping over it. I was often dismissed as just “shy”. That outburst was out of character and came as a shock.

A few years later, when I was a teenager, my father had looked me in the eyes and earnestly told me this precious piece of advice, “You bottle everything up inside. No good, you know. One day you’ll explode. You must learn to talk about it together.” My relationship with him then was rocky and I was hardly home.

Did I get the message?

“You’re someone who keeps everything inside, to yourself. You need to learn to open up and share it with others.”

I looked up, shaken. A medium in a trance, channelling a Taoist deity, had just given me the advice so many others had given me before and he had never met me or even spoken to me before this visit.

He didn’t know my challenges.

He didn’t know me at all besides a name and my birthday.

I felt a chill down my spine.

While the F Man had received plenty of apt advice for his career, when it came to me, it was about how I handled my emotions and how that would affect my health. And also, a reminder that my binging habits and sudden changes in my diet (when I’d eat extremely little for no reason other than I felt like it) would cause me health problems.

A volunteer, an “uncle” (probably in his early 50s), who was helping to translate the advice given in Hokkien to Mandarin, smiled kindly at me, “You know what he’s saying, right? Do you get it?”

Did I get the message?

Can our thoughts really make us age faster?

Um… yeah.

It’s just another day on Facebook. I clicked on the link shared by a friend and I got sucked into 10 minutes of intense reading.

“Could your thoughts make you age faster?”

The quick answer to that question? Yes, but that’s only because some thoughts cause your telomeres to shorten.

Telomeres, these protective caps at the end of our chromosomes, prevent damage to our DNA within the chromosomes.

How many chromosomes do we have? Wait a minute. What’s a chromosome? (Quick science class on chromosomes in under 3 mins here.) We have a total of 46, inheriting half (that’s 23 each) from fathers and half from our mothers. They also contain our DNA.

DNA can be described as our bodies’ instruction manual and contain instructions on how we should develop and function. Telomeres naturally shorten as we age and if they get too short to protect our DNA from unravelling, our cells stop reproducing, they age and eventually stop functioning.

The speed at which we age is linked to the length of our telomeres and the article pointed out that there are thought patterns that are unhealthy for telomeres. Obviously, the ones shared were negative thought patterns and I’d highly recommend you take some time to read the article to find out more. Scientists have found a link between shortened telomeres and chronic diseases and premature death. It’s fascinating.

After reading this piece, curiosity got to me. I went looking for articles on telomeres to find out more about how everything connects and what happens to our bodies when telomeres shorten. By the way, cells that reproduce most frequently are most affected by telomere shortening like our skin, hair and immune system! Why spend so much money, effort and time on skincare, haircare and health supplements if I’m not evaluating this aspect of my health! I sat down and reflected.

Everything makes so much sense. In my case, I am aware of my knee jerk reaction of avoiding my negative emotions, suppressing them and shoving them into the back of my mind, instead of, like the article shared, acknowledging my negative thoughts and letting them fade. It is a completely NORMAL human experience to feel a range of emotions, happiness, sadness, anger… (they’ve even made a Pixar movie to illustrate this), but what makes a difference is how I deal with them.

If we try to manage stressful thoughts by sinking the bad thoughts into the deepest waters of our subconscious, it can backfire. The chronically stressed brain’s resources are already taxed — we call this cognitive load — making it even harder to successfully suppress thoughts. Instead of less stress, we get more. –  + , Could your thoughts make you age faster?

Maybe I should bear that in mind the next time I feel like I’m “getting old”.

Also, sleeping late may shorten my telomeres. Dammit. Time to hit the sack.

It’s time I get the message.

Photo: Samantha Ann Francis of Feelim Photography

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