Stress and the Body

Scott Sulak
Change For Good,® Inc.

 

Facts:

· Physicians are now combating the physiological effects of stress in their patients. The facts are in and it appears that the relationship between stress and illness is a real medical threat.
· Stress causes cholesterol to rise as much or more than does diet.
· The “working” blood pressure, not the “at rest” blood pressure, is what puts you at risk.
· You can learn how to have high blood pressure.
· Coronary obstruction can be reversed by diet, minimal exercise and mind (stress) control.
· Children are now at risk. By the age of six, many children have already laid the groundwork for severe hypertension.
· Studies show a strong link between stress and increases in immune system disorders and cancer.
· Individual metabolic fluctuations and a person’s ability to control weight are greatly influenced by stress.
· Stress is a learned behavioral response and can be reduced through meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga and other types of mental exercises.

Is Stress a Normal Part of Life?

Actually, in a biological or physiological sense, you have the built-in ability to deal with stress, or the reaction to events. There are two ways your body can react to stress:
1. Acute Alarm Reaction:  This is the fight or flight mode of thought. It can help you in a time of extreme emergency, when you are physically threatened. This is a healthy function of the body. It can save your life. Your heart pumps faster, blood gets to all parts of the body faster and with greater force, your blood pressure elevates, your lungs respond by delivering more oxygen to your muscle tissues, your breathing is more rapid and you become prepared for the need to move.

Simultaneously your brain begins to stimulate powerful adrenaline-like chemicals called catecholamines, so you have the option of confronting the danger (fighting back) or taking off like the Road Runner. Whether it was confronting a large animal in the jungle or avoiding a speeding car, this ability to fight or flee has been the backbone of our ability to survive as a species. So, needless to say, it is quite natural and quite needed.

2. Sustained Vigilance: This is the way the body prepares for a long-term challenge. In ancient times, our ancestors needed to cope with some very extreme circumstances. Among them were climatic catastrophes (long, cold winters, extreme heat), depletion of resources (drought, food) or any type of long-term struggle (illness, long term fatigue) or displacement. Life was hard. Vigilance is the biological response to loss of control. In our modern world, sustained vigilance is the most destructive physiological condition we can put our body through.

During this condition of vigilance your brain stimulates the release of another powerful chemical, cortisol. This allows your blood pressure to rise slowly and steadily, you retain vital chemicals such as sodium (salt), your metabolism slows down, gastric acid increases to maximize the calories you get from food, high energy fats and blood clotting agents are released into your bloodstream (in case they are needed), energy is diverted from your immune system and “nonessentials,” such as sex hormones, are dramatically suppressed. Your body is prepared for the long haul.

For the majority of our civilization, we are usually not facing the kind of peril that our ancestors faced throughout their lives. Facing a two-year drought or widespread starvation has been replaced with getting a raise, fighting with our spouse and raising the kids. Many of us live in sustained vigilance throughout most of our adult lives. It is estimated that 80% of all medical complaints are stress related. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 60% of all diseases are related to an individual’s lifestyle. High stress levels are linked to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and suicides.

Okay, So I am Stressed Out – Now What?

Life in the fast lane. Stress is all around, how do I get out of this mess? The first thing to realize is the problem is not the issues in your life, rather your response to them. Reducing your stress levels means that you learn to respond to situations in an appropriate manner. Let’s imagine you are watching a movie in which a character climbs out the window of a 40-story building to escape the bad guy. He does not realize quite yet where he is, however he is at least safe for the moment. As you watch, you notice how free and easy he is with his movement, and you wonder if he realizes how HIGH up he is. Then suddenly, someone in the movie sees him and yells, “Don’t look down!” What does he do? Right, he looks down. What happens to this imaginary man? You guessed it – he becomes scared and he clings to the wall. The more he looks down, the more scared he gets. If you were to try and help this man, what would you do? Would you tell him how far down the fall would be? Would you explain to him that he would be landing on parked cars and most certainly would die? No, not if you wanted to save him. What would you say to help this man? Well, for starters, you would more than likely go to the window. You would encourage him to look at you. To keep his eyes on you (his desire) would be the way to save this scared man. Focusing on what he wants, NOT on what he does not want is the way to get this man off the ledge. One step at a time, focusing on the window and he is saved. That is how you must save yourself from this stress. To first imagine what it is that you want, then to focus on it – that is how you come down off your own ledge. Imagine and focus, one step at a time.

Ten Tips for Lowering Your Stress Levels – Immediately!

1. You: Start by taking time out for yourself. Get a massage, go for a walk, get your nails done or take a tennis lesson. Start taking care of yourself. Begin to remember what it was like to care about YOU.

2. List: Make a list of the things that make you happy. Try to find 10 things that you enjoy and begin at once to remember the feeling of doing them. Close your eyes and imagine doing them. Do this one time each day.

3. Learn: Learn relaxation techniques such as self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga or Tai Chi. Go to a class, read a book or find someone who teaches one-on-one or watch a video.

4. Love: Surround yourself with loved ones. Visit friends, family or community members that care about you. Enjoy the time you have with people who are concerned about you.

5. Exercise: Start some type of realistic exercise routine. Whether it is 15 minutes a day or an hour of aerobics – just make sure it is something you can do everyday. Stick with it. Build up over time, but get moving!

6. Food: Stay away from caffeine and chocolate. Try to eat healthy well-balanced, nutrient rich foods. Junk food and coffee will add to your stress levels.

7. Wish: Start a wish list of things you want to accomplish, places you want to go, things you want to do and people you want to meet and be with. Take time to carefully imagine what will make your life complete. Study this list one time each day.

8. Spirit: Whether it is organized religion or a simple prayer. Become aligned with your own spirit or higher self. This will help you balance and become aligned with your higher purpose.

9. Help: Be of service to someone. Call a sick friend or relative. Make contact with someone you have not had the time for. Put a smile on someone’s face. Do a good deed.

10. Stop: Stop complaining and start doing. Be the person you used to be. Be impulsive and take action – listen to audiotapes, practice positive affirmations, visualize your new life, dare to be free. Remember, the past does not equal the future. Get help if necessary – get counseling, see a clergyman – but don’t give in to stress. Let it go.

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