Let’s be real. We are all aware of those people who look rode hard, put away wet despite their age. The eau-de-cowboy looking face. The people that look old, even when their years are young. Sure, genetics play a role, as does lifestyle. But the other part that is massively overlooked- is stress.

Many think of stress as being this blanketed, almost unavoidable part of life. A state of normal. However, there are two forms of stress: functional and detrimental. It’s a good idea to recognize the difference between the two so internal navigation of them is easier. In knowing the difference, we are then able to make conscious decisions to step ourselves deeper into personal alignment.

Functional Stress

My favorite example of physical functional stress is waking up from a dead sleep because you have to go to the bathroom. Your body is giving you a stress signal to relieve pressure. It’s motivating you to get out of bed, knowing the pressure you’re experiencing is about to be alleviated. Here, we see a clear start and stop to the stress. There is an urgency to it, yet a total resolution once we’ve paid attention to the signal and heeded its cry.

Functional stress is also very rousing. An example of intrinsic functional stress is motivation through the feeling of passion. Wanting to get out of bed in the morning to engage in something you find meaningful. Doing purposeful work. The Higher Self and the physical body do not perceive this as stress at all because the thoughts and emotions in execution are in alignment.

Detrimental Stress

As you could guess, detrimental stress disturbs our equilibrium. It’s a state of chronic survival, at least as perceived by the mind and body. Examples of this type of stress include hating your job, feeling you are with the wrong partner, worrying about money, resenting your day-to-day responsibilities, or simply experiencing emotional suffering brought on by external means. We all feel these hardships at some point in our lives, as we all still need to experience soul growth through challenge and lessons.

However, it is when there is a resolve to this type of stress – a feeling that such stress is normal, that’s it is just “life,” and forging through it with your best battle gear on– that imbalance manifests. By doing this, you’re becoming comfortable with the notion that life is going to have its way with you. You’re relinquishing yourself to being the victim of your own existence. You’re surrendering to the idea of long term suffering. This thinking is completely disconnected from the belief that we truly do create our own destinies. You first must experience suffering, to realize you are out of alignment. That is what detrimental stress is: being out of alignment.

Drawing the Difference Between the Two

Functional stress is executed through passion. Anything we are passionate about, our soul perceives as motivation. Detrimental stress, however, is action through the feeling of obligation.

Think of detrimental stress as being in an ebb, and functional stress as being in your flow. If you’re perpetually in an ebb, then your body, mind and spirit are in chronic depletion.

Detrimental stress asks you to ask yourself: what is bringing you out of alignment? Are you living your passion? Are you with the right companion? Do you enjoy your own company? Do you hold anger or resentment for past wounds? Take heed of the flag that is being waved in front of you.

Sad to say, but the majority of the population remains in chronic, detrimental stress. This is where the evidence shows up on their faces and bodies. You guessed it— detrimental stress is the biggest culprit of aging. You can literally see this on the face. A sallow complexion, a heavy smile, and tired, light-less eyes. Even body language and gait— shoulders rolled in, belly out, head hang down towards the feet.

On the physical level, detrimental stress creates cellular damage. It raises blood pressure, which in turn causes comprehensive inflammation. Inflammation, simply, is the root cause of dis-ease within the body.

Energetically, hoarded emotions play the biggest role in causing internal disruption. Everything is energy, and everything has a vibration and frequency. Hate, resentment, bitterness, rejection, fear and regret—you can imagine that these emotions have very low frequencies. Take that, and now imagine what it’s like to hold these toxic emotions inside of you. Imagine holding these emotions…for a lifetime. It’s the equivalent of taking a personally crafted poison every day. Many think that if they just take their vitamins, exercise and eat clean that will be enough. Unfortunately, emotions are the missing piece of the puzzle. These vibrations are so powerful, they trump all supplements and medications you take. Energy is smarter than Western medicine. And unless emotional health is part of your holistic regimen, everything else you do will be superficial.

The Mindfulness Fix

Our emotions are what feed our internal state, weather that state is positive or negative. If you’re in love with your life, your body is not going to perceive anything in your surroundings as stress, and thus, you won’t experience cellular damage. It’s actually quite simple. Yet, if you hold negative emotions chronically, this is where the real work starts. This bears the question of What is making me unhappy?

Unfortunately, this is where so many people stop their journey inward. Once they ask that question, the “unhappy” list is very long, and they once again fall into immobilization because changing all of these circumstances seems insurmountable. Especially when unhappiness bridges multiple categories: work, health, family, love and self.

Taking one unhappiness aspect at a time, while knowing that healing the self is a lifelong process— this is the first step towards releasing and reversing cellular damage.

Our physical body needs to be thought of as the physical representation of our subconscious mind. If we are in dis-ease or are suffering in any way internally, our bodies will show evidence of it externally. If the physical body is breaking down in any way, this is a signal that something energetically is out of alignment. This is, hopefully, purposeful force to get you to go within and reflect. Reflect in any aspect of your internal and external life that is creating detrimental stress within you. Once this stress is acknowledged, released or transformed, both the physical and energetic bodies are returned to their optimal state.

Personal Testimony

None of this is to say I haven’t experienced my fair share of detrimental stress. On the contrary, in the time between these photos, I suffered massive heartbreak: romantic heartbreak and the heartbreak of losing both my parents within two years of each other. I swam in grief for the entire decade of my 20’s. I also suffered major health problems while my heart processed this pain. I attribute my saving grace to be the allowance of releasing my emotional suffering through journaling and meditation. These practices became paramount for the transmutation of my emotional injury, allowing me to properly purge detrimental stress.

Through this process, I gained tools of navigation. In applying these tools to my own life, I broke down everything within dysfunctional stress that was internal and external. I had to stop living through obligation, and let go of circumstances and relationships that caused me disharmony. It resulted in living my passion and feeling purposeful in all I do. I love my life. I am at complete peace with my past, content with my present, and hold great excitement for my future. I’m very fortunate to say that my face holds evidence of my work.