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You may have questions about stress, what causes, and what you can do.
1. What is stress?
Stress is the physical response to anything the body-mind considers to be a threat to our internal harmony.
These stressors or triggers can be anything real or imagined that disrupts the normal balance.
It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reactions, and usually expresses as resistance, tension, strain, or frustration which throws off our physical and psychological equilibrium.
2. What is the “Fight or Flight” response?
The body’s stress response (fight or flight) involves more that fourteen hundred known physical and chemical reactions and over thirty different hormones and neurotransmitters.
When we experience stress, the body reacts by releasing the hormone adrenaline into the bloodstream which elevates heart rate and blood pressure, speeds up breathing, and shunts blood to the muscles and away from the neo-cortex (thinking brain) and into the brainstem (primitive reactive brain), shuts down digestion and the immune system, preparing us to either run or fight for our lives.
This system is designed for short-term acute stress response. After the danger has passed, the physiology returns to “normal.”
Unfortunately, most of us today are experiencing chronic long-term stress.
3. What is cortisol?
Cortisol has become known as the stress hormone because if its extensive role in the body’s response to stress. In balanced amounts cortisol is essential for health. When we are under chronic stress the body produces high levels of cortisol over long periods, which sears the body like acid.
4. What are the effects of chronically high levels of cortisol?
Chronically elevated levels of cortisol:
Impair immune function,
Reduce glucose utilization,
Increase bone loss and promoting osteoporosis
Reduce muscle mass
Inhibit skin growth and regeneration
Increase fat accumulation, especially around the waist and hips
Impair memory and learning, and destroy brain cells
5. What happens to the body when “Fight or Flight” becomes chronic acute stress?
Elevation of blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease
High blood pressure and atherosclerosis leading to heart disease and stroke
Metabolic Syndrome X, which is associated with insulin resistance so that the body is unable to utilize glucose, which leads to blood vessel disease, heart disease stroke and kidney failure
Bone damage and weakness
Memory loss and brain damage
6. What are the primary causes of stress?
Dietary stress: food additives, sugar and refined carbohydrates, tobacco and alcohol use, caffeine
Negative and fear-based thinking
Lack of exercise
Fast-paced modern living
Multi-tasking!!! the modern work environment!
New research has found that what creates more stress for people than any other stressor is having to shift concepts, intention, and focus to many different tasks, many times an hour!*1
Environmental stresses such as toxic air and water, noise pollution, over-crowding, chronic insecurity due to dangerous living conditions, and warfare, to name a few
7. What can I do to relieve stress?
There are many ways to reduce stress in our lives. These include:
A. Make dietary changes that reduce dietary stress: Americans consume poor-quality food that has been:
Grown on depleted soils saturated with petrochemicals and poisons
Shipped thousands of miles and
Stored long-term before eating
And is full of chemical additives, hormones, and artificial food-like substances
Food is chemical information that talks to our bodies and tells it what to do every moment. The truth is that the food we eat is so foreign to our bodies and so toxic that it creates a physiological stress response in the body: our cells don’t recognize these foods and activate a stress response
B. Identify and reduce the external causes of stress:
What stressors can you or could you eliminate?
Make a list of those activities that you do or could do that counteract stress, i.e. make you feel good.
C. Practice active relaxation.
Activate the relaxation response: we have to actively relax!
D. Exercise: Exercise erases the effects of chronic stress!
E. Get plenty of rest: Americans are chronically sleep-deprived!
8. But, stress is a physical reaction to our perception of events, right?
Yes, it isn’t the events or triggers that cause stress; it’s how we perceive those events. It involves our attitudes towards what is happening, our beliefs about what “should” or should not be happening, and the thoughts and feelings we generate about any given situation that may result in anger, frustration, resentment, worry and disappointment, all negative emotions that contribute to a state of chronic stress.
Aside from the dietary and environmental stressors which we generally are unaware of, stress itself can be defined as anything you PERCEIVE as dangerous — whether real or imagined — that is a threat to the body or ego. Your interpretation of events — in other words, your thoughts — are what determine whether you experience calm, happy life or stressed-out unhappy life.
Thoughts are things and they have a direct impact on your biology: the stress response is automatic and is a biological response to perceived danger.
Once we realize that it is not really external events that cause stress, but how we perceive those events, we can change our response — or how we think about the event — to reduce and eliminate the stress reaction in the body. We can control it!
We are beginning to recognize and explore the mind-body connection: every cell of our bodies communicates with every other cell through a vast array of chemical messengers.
Candice Pert*2 says: every thought you think sends a cascade of chemicals to every cell of the body. We are a chemical soup. Our thoughts are directly responsible for the chemical messengers that precipitate the physiological stress response.
Begin by noticing your thoughts and especially the ANTS = Automatic Negative Thoughts: that tape that plays in the back of the mind all day long: the negative self talk.
And begin to actively change the way you talk to yourself.
Want to learn more?
Call 206-384-7081 to learn ways to reduce stress levels in your life and permanently change your response to external stressors.
*1 Childre, D., and Cryer, B., From Chaos to Coherence: Advancing Emotional and Organizational Intelligence Through Inner Quality Management
*2 Pert, Candace, Molecules of Emotion