Can Stress alter your DNA?

Of course, ‘STRESS’ is the new buzz word around. You would notice using it multiple times in your day to day vocabulary. We often end up saying, ‘I am so stressed out.’ But, do we know what are we actually doing to ourselves by allowing us to feel stressed?

You have surely heard about the regular symptoms that are brought by stress……like

Stress makes you upset

Stress causes anxiety

Stress leads to depression

Stress results in headache

Stress reduces immunity making you prone to catching diseases

Stress leads to insomnia or sleeplessness

But, but, but………. did you know that stress can actually alter your DNA ??? Yes, your DNA!!!

Don’t believe! Read on…

Stress can give two kinds of responses, which are as follows:

  1. Physical Manifestation of Stress: One of the reactions of stress is an immediate physical response like the list of side-effects mentioned above such as headache, depression, etc. These reactions are visible and can be felt immediately.
  2. Genetic Changes: This is the other kind of response that is relatively serious in nature. Prolonged stress results in changes in the DNA of human beings. This has been proven by a scientific study done by ‘The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

We are all quite familiar with the first response but are entirely unfamiliar with the second one. Let us evaluate the ill-effects of stress on our genetic composition.

When you are under stress, you end up secreting cortisol, the stress hormone. Due to stress hormone production, many pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor – α (TNF-α) and interleukin- 6 are produced. In a lay man’s language, these are psychological stressors that produce age-related diseases.

Before taking this discussion further, let me make you aware of the term called ‘Telomere’. The telomere is the end part of chromosome that acts as a protective cap to prevent DNA bases from losing out. DNA strands are contained inside the chromosomes.

It has been observed that stress can either heighten telomeres (part of chromosomes) or shorten them. It is due to changes in these chromosomic parts, that the life span of an individual is also believed to be reduced by 7 to 15 years. Of course, this means that sensitive people who get stressed out soon are believed to have shortened their lives owing to unnecessary stress.

How to overcome stress?

Overcoming stress is challenging at times. Especially when it comes to stress due to personal or professional relationship, or stress due to ill-health, it gets very challenging to remove stress.

However, no matter what the situation is, life is destined. But, how we choose to react to that pre-destined challenge will decide our future. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing to cut down stress.

Often, we take lives too seriously. We are all chasing some deep-seated desires like building our own house, having our dream jobs, ensuring our kids take up promising career paths, or anything.

And, in this process of chasing the desires which appear to be out goals, we end up ignoring the entire journey of process of reaching those goals. So, stress builds up! We are bombarded with negative feelings and feel frustrated.

But, just sick back and think! Are we actually doing justice to our lives? Life is the biggest gift from almighty, instead of working towards prolonging our lives we are exactly doing the opposite.

And, the worst is that we are not even aware. We had no clue that stress can alter our DNA. It can take a hit on our life span. And, due to this ignorance, we have been running from pillar to post only to make life happen…………isn’t this funny?

But, now that you know what is this negative ‘STRESS’ emotion doing to you, what it is that you would change? Would you now make an effort to be as stress-free as you can…..i hope so!

The following list may help. Whenever you are in stress you may try doing this:

  1. Deep Breathing: Inhale and exhale a deep breath a couple of times. It increases the oxygen supply in the blood, which helps you calm down.
  2. Do something you like: The best way to take your mind off the problem is to do something you want. Do things like painting, socializing, gardening, cooking, travelling or anything that you like doing. It will de-stress you regularly.
  3. Take it Easy: You must have seen a friend or a family who has a very easy-going attitude. Having an easy-going attitude does not mean being ignorant. It only means that you need to accept things as they happen.

One famous example of people who accept their situations and make peace with them is Sudha Chandran. The famous Bollywood Bharatnatyam dancer lost her leg in car accident. She still trained herself to dance on a prosthetic leg and still became so famous.

People with easy-going nature are my personal favourites. We have many such examples where physically disabled people have succeeded in their chosen professions because of the acceptance of their current circumstances.

  • Develop Positivity: When it is the question of putting your healthy genetic sequence at stake, why not handle stress forever. Seeing the glass half-full is a personal choice. Not many people understand the power of positivity in life.

Do you know that each thought that you create in your mind is very powerful? The thought goes out in the universe in the form of energy and is accepted by it. The same thought is brought back to us as experience. We don’t realize the power of thoughts as we don’t see them manifested immediately. But, the positive you are the better your life gets.

Stress is a very negative low energy emotion. It can only be nullified by high-energy positive emotions.

  • Self-awareness: In the words of the famous writer Shakespeare, ‘This world is a stage and each one of us is an actor performing our act’. So, we are here as actors performing our given roles in this drama. The script of the drama is not in our hands. So, why all the fuss about life?

Situations will come as written in the script; you just need to give your best performance as an actor.

I hope this was a useful piece of information. And, I hope after knowing how stress affects your DNA, you will take extra care to ensure that you keep stress at bay.

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