The relationship between biology and psychology/psychiatry has been long established, the continuing influence that both fields have on one another is truly groundbreaking and quite magnificent.
Weeks ago, while waiting for a rather interesting TedTalk, I learned about something that I’ve never heard of before. Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, who gave the presentation, began talking about something called telomeres. In short, telomeres are protective casings at the end of our DNA called chromosomes.  They are incredibly important in the process of cell division , as they protect the cell’s genomic stability. 
Although they are significant, little bits of telomeres are lost each time a cell divides , mainly due to the fact that during the process of replication, chromosomes do not replicate fully at the tips. 
Research has indicated that it is natural for telomeres to shorten as we grow old. But, the rate at which shortening occurs is dependent on the activity levels of an enzyme called telomerase; which can lengthen and protect telomeres. 
There are several factors that impact the rate at which telomeres shorten, including genetics and chronological ageing.  Yet, recently chronic stress has been studied as a possible factor. According to Dr Elissa Epel, “stress is now on the map as one of the most consistent predictors of shorter telomere length.” 
Through a study conducted by Drs. Blackburn and Epel, they researched a group of caregiving mothers (mothers of children with a chronic condition, for example, autism).  They wanted to know what the length of the mother’s telomeres was compared with the number of years that they have been caregiving for their chronically-ill child. 
Four years later, the results of their study demonstrated that the longer the years a mother has been caregiving for her child, the shorter her telomeres; no matter her age.  Telomere lengths were obtained by measuring DNA through a PCR assay. 
The discovery revealed that “the more chronic stress you are under, the shorter your telomeres, meaning the more likely you were to fall victim to an early disease span and perhaps untimely death.” 
Despite the rather despairing realization, Dr Blackburn went on to describe some outliers in their results. These outliers happened to be mothers who were able to maintain their telomeres even when they have been caregiving for their chronically-ill child for many years.  According to Dr Blackburn, the mothers were resilient to stress. They had been able to come across their situations as challenges rather than threats.  The approach utilized by some of the mothers has led to an awareness of ourselves. Dr Blackburn put it like this, “we have control over the way we age all the way down into our cells.”
So, what does this really say? Dr Blackburn continued to express that our attitudes matter. Our reactions towards stressful situations can determine whether our telomeres shorten or maintain their lengths. On one hand, if we view stressful situations as threats, our levels of cortisol (stress hormone) increase and as they remain increased, levels of telomerase will ultimately decrease. 
And the opposite is also true. If we view stressful situations as challenges, levels of cortisol will remain within a normal range. Therefore not disturbing the activity levels of our telomerase. 
So, what are some things we can do to make sure that the activity levels of our telomerase do not fluctuate significantly? Dr Epel has communicated that a strong social network and long-term connections with family, friends, colleagues..etc. serve as a barrier from chronic stress. Being active and light exercise also helps evade long-term stress. Finally, resorting to stress-reduction techniques such as meditation will contribute significantly to our overall health. 
 Blackburn, Elizabeth. “The science of cells that never get old.” TED, April 2017. www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_blackburn_the_science_of_cells_that_never_get_old/transcript?language=en
 Bongiorno, Peter. “Telomere Length and Depression.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Feb. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inner-source/201702/telomere-length-and-depression.
 Epel, Elissa S., et al. “Accelerated Telomere Shortening in Response to Life Stress.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 7 Dec. 2004, www.pnas.org/content/101/49/17312.
 Epel, Elissa S. “Telomeres in a Life-Span Perspective.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 18, no. 1, 2009, pp. 6–10., doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01596.x.
 Lu, Stacy. “How Chronic Stress Is Harming Our DNA.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Oct. 2014, www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/chronic-stress.aspx.