Living Well: Stress - The Final Frontier

تم نشره في Sat 17 December / Dec 2016. 12:00 AM
  • Stress at work - (The Huffington Post)

Stress is not a dirty word. Or is it?

Our body’s autonomic response comes in very handy when we are in a life threatening situation and need to survive. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in, taking control of all bodily functions preparing us to fight, flight or freeze in a blink of an eye. Once the threat is gone, the parasympathetic system is activated, counteracting the effects of stress and restoring the body back to its normal state.

When our stress response becomes frequent however, it sets up a chronic state where the body does not have the time to recover from one stress response before another - and that’s when the benefits of stress end and the health problems begin.

What Triggers Stress

There are three types of stress that put our biological system into an emergency-survival mode:

1. Physical stress - caused by injury, illness, infection, surgery; exhaustion; extreme temperatures, sound, light and sun exposure; lack of sleep; starvation; dehydration; poor oxygenation; weight imbalance.

2. Chemical stress - caused by poor nutrition, lack of essential vitamins and minerals; food, water and environment toxins; hormonal imbalance; drugs (legal and illegal); alcohol; cigarettes ; vaccinations; excessive acidity of the system.

3. Emotional stress - caused by negative thoughts and emotions both expressed and bottled up that create our state of being in which we live day by day.

With the physical and chemical types of stress being easier to control as their triggers are well known and can easily be managed, let’s focus here on emotional stress creating havoc in our lives.

I propose that there are three main categories of emotional stress linked to the passage of time:

·         Worry, fear and anxiety about the FUTURE

·         Negative emotional attachments to PAST experiences (such as regret, guilt, shame, anger, blame, judgment, criticism, hatred and resentment)

·         Negative emotional reactions expressing our inability to accept and deal with PRESENT circumstances such as:

v  People and situations pushing our ego buttons (traffic, conflicts, undesired outcomes

v  Challenging long term situations (health, family, relationship, finances, career)

v  Overwhelm, deadlines and being stuck on the problem with no solution in sight

v  Negative self-talk, poor self-confidence and self-esteem

It is important to realise that except in the life-threatening situations when our nervous system is in charge, our emotional stress response to life is conditional - which means that we are in control. By changing the meaning of the triggers we can stop those false alarms.

The Final Frontier

Stress has been long recognised as a contributing factor to many health problems that people suffer from. I would like to radically expand on this view and propose that stress is the cause of the majority, if not all, health malfunctions in the body. That’s right - the very cause, due to the impact on the body of steroid hormones (adrenaline, cortisol and epinephrine) secreted during stress. Here is a summary of the key impacts of stress which in time can create all kinds of dis-ease in the human body from Hashimoto’s and cancer to allergies and weight gain.

    All body systems and functions non-essential to the fight-flight-freeze response are altered or supressed: the digestive system, reproductive system, immune system and all growth and repair processes (except for the open wound repair). In chronic stress, all functions governed by these systems are continually impaired, resulting in the cells’ and organs’ increased susceptibility to illness and disease.

§  Other body systems are being overtaxed - cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, endocrine and nervous system. How long can you ride a horse without proper rest until it collapses?

§  Drastic chemical changes caused by stress affect our DNA in a way that can activate dormant genes such as cancer genes that most people have.

§  Acidosis - an excessive blood acidity which in itself creates a wide range of health issues reinforcing the damaging effects of stress hormones, such as ulcers, cancers, arthritis, porous bones, skin problems and weight gain.

§  Blood is being redirected away from the frontal cortex to the sensory and motor centres in the brain. Your ability to think, analyse, comprehend and remember in a stressful state is significantly impaired. Some believe that there is a link between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, it is not well known that chronic stress creates a chemical addiction to stress hormones in the body, which then craves those hormones pushing us to create some more.

This case study will illustrate my point: Half way through our program addressing her anxiety issues, my client admitted bravely: “Now that all my problems have been addressed and so much has changed in my life, I worry, I really worry that I have nothing to worry about!” . Needless to say, we knew what to focus on for the remainder of the program.

Keep It Under Control

While some stress is an inevitable part of life, keeping it to the bare minimum is of paramount importance given its ill long term effects on our body and mind. Here are few simple strategies I recommend to my clients to keep their emotional stress under control:

• Do not dwell on past negative experiences - whether they took place 20 years, two months or one hour ago. Every time you recall them, you create the same negative emotions that produce the same stress hormones damaging your body. The past cannot be undone, no matter how many sleepless nights you invest in it. Forgive yourself and others for what has happened, break the energetic attachments to those events and simply move on.

• Worry about the future is pointless and bad for your health. Remember, every time you have a negative thought it creates negative emotions that produce stress. Ask yourself: is this future scenario within my control? If yes - take action to ensure the outcome you want. If not - your worry is a waste of time; moreover that the negative outcome you worry about may, in fact, never eventuate!

• Build your resilience to deal with the challenges of life by taking these few simple steps:

·         Take time out for yourself regularly. Meditate, practice yoga, listen to relaxing music, have a full body massage, spend some time in nature.

·         Take care of any unresolved negative emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, blame and shame. They produce a host of related emotional responses including frustration, judgment, criticism, hatred, anxiety and depression that ultimately lead to self-sabotage. Uncover and deal with any negative beliefs such as I’m not loved, I’m not good enough, or I don’t belong - as these create very sensitive buttons in your interface with the world, waiting to be touched and triggered to finally explode.

·         Develop a positive, kind and accepting attitude to life. Become oblivious to the situations and people that tend to ruffle your feathers. If someone or something did not meet your expectations - so what? Your life still goes on.

·         Seek professional help if needed. Life is not meant to be a struggle - there is always a helping hand.

Conflict and challenging situations do not induce stress; our interpretation of them determines whether we respond or react. As the late Dr Wayne Dyer said: “When you squeeze an orange, what comes out? Orange juice, of course. And why does orange juice come out? Because it is there.”

An Emergency Stress Release Technique

Finally - a very effective short-term strategy to lower the stress levels in an emotional crisis is to immediately change your breathing. Start breathing deeply and slowly ‘through your heart centre’ (in the middle of your chest) in your imagination as if the air was actually flowing through your heart. Research has proven that this technique switches very quickly - in a matter of minutes - the sympathetic system response to the parasympathetic, stopping the secretion of stress hormones into the bloodstream. The HeartMath Institute recommends this as the Quick Coherence® Technique for Adults.

The Final Word

The bottom line is that while you have no control over the sympathetic nervous system that floods your body with stress hormones in a real emergency, you can eliminate the false emergency (emotional) trigger buttons to reduce stress. The key here is to understand what those triggers are and eliminate them from your psyche as quickly as you can.

You don’t need to have the final word in an argument with your spouse. You do want to have the last say on what affects your wellbeing.

(The Huffington Post)

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