We all know that stress is killing us. In fact, many people may say that very thing over a cup of coffee with a co-worker in the break room while working overtime. Stress is difficult to appraise, and also everyone deals with stress differently. Some people get insomnia, others headaches or high blood pressure. But many other symptoms are unique to the type of stress people experience. We have just learned to live with it, but it is costly. The stress effects build up over time and weaken our ‘immunity.’ But that’s not all of it. Its effects are subtle and not immediately relatable due to the nature of the human mind. So they go into the category of ‘I’ll get to it later.’ Studying stress means that we may have to slow down and look at our lives-because as hectic as they are-we are paying the price.
Research has proven that all illness is linked to the mind’s interpretation of events. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe(MD’s) reviewed 5,000 medical cases of stress levels in families. The events were graded on a scale numerically, and the extremes like divorce or death of a family member rated at one hundred points, and lesser points assigned on other events such as jail time, or loss of a job, getting a ticket, buying a house, etc..
Tracked over a two year period, if the total reached 200 or higher the person’s risk of becoming sick increased immensely. Their test has now been validated for years and re-qualified as ‘change units’—the quantification of changes in a person’s life. It has become a type of illness predictor.
Barbara B Brown a renowned scientist is known for writing, Between Health and Illness, Stress and the Art of Biofeedback, New Mind/New Body, and Infinite Wellbeing. She originated the term biofeedback. In her forty years of research using brain mapping and psychophysiological equipment, she discovered that all illness is generated from the ‘intellect’ within our minds. She studied hundreds of Veterans and discovered deep truths, laying the foundations of stress management and mind/body awareness, biofeedback, and its influential interface for wellness. Her research not only developed an emerging science, but its’ deepest value is in providing a new kind of ‘living’ science interacting with the mind, consciousness and the subconscious (psyche) all in one. She was able to prove that the body’s access to the subconscious (which is ultimately directing all processes of the body. It is a fundamental underpinning of our biology, working in a beautifully orchestrated process controlled by psyche, mind, emotions, our perceptions, stress levels, and its effect on the brain and the nervous system.
She states that both wellbeing and illness are constructed within the mind(our intellect)—and she states that as we access core level responses internally, (through proper use of the mind), we can change our wellness levels.How we manage our stress-load and our stress-nature in dealing with life’s, choices support the key factors in the ability to become well, stay well, and find an inner state of well-being. As we manage our stress responses we can keep our immunity high—hence Infinite Wellbeing.
The study of stress isn’t top shelf because we all suffer from plausible deniability—the fact that even when there is a hard-cold-fact such as death, we plausibly deny that it is possible for us to die-yes, we know we all will die—but not just yet. No one is interested in stress until they ‘go to the well once too often.’ We can’t fathom how stress can kill—(at least not us anyway). The facts—even though they face us directly and head on—very few are willing to accept that there is a measurable ‘physical loss’ to our bodies when we are under stress. In prolonged cases, the path to recovery requires the body/brain to shut down almost completely and ‘depress’ so that there can be a full recovery. We all suffer from the American challenge of ‘doing more,’ and we are paying for it. But how does it happen?
How we perceive things is stress; (what we think about it) becomes as important as how we handle and cope with its’ negative effects. Chinese Doctors call it the ‘Changes in the Wind’ or ‘Suffering from Cold.’ At the change in seasons, illness rises. It like when we are shifting seasons from summer to fall, we experience changes. Stress includes the perception of change. If we have been so stressed, and then we have to move to a new environment, increase our mortgage, miss our payment for the house, have increased fuel bills, these things all add on the extra dollop of weight that forces us to go into overwhelm, toppling the apple cart. If we can stop for a moment and discover how we cope with change, we may gain a better perspective.
When we suffer from a stress event, even daily work, etc., there isn’t any downtime. We cover it up with extra wine, drugs, or more alcohol. There is mounting evidence that meditation is a ‘cure’ for depression and may other body ills. Meditation offers the body the extra support for the needed ‘down’ time—and it is simple, just twenty minutes a day—isn’t it worth it? We all know what continually pressing the ‘ON’ button does—in time it keeps the nervous system from turning off. A new metabolic science has appeared due to the stress effects on cells. Known as Cell Danger Response, the cells themselves undergo significant changes depending on the type of stress a person experiences and the constant ‘on’ state. The stress effect cascade is complicated and costly even to the cellular health. We must learn to deal effectively with stress; this is known as Active Stress Management. ASM
ASM systems aid in the regular dual rhythm of the nervous system – fight/fright/act is part of a stress response. The downtime of rest/digest/sleep is the other side of the coin which is meditation and mindfulness. But, when we always push the ‘on,’ then soon the nervous system never gets to turn ‘off.’ There is a time when, as Dr. Gabor Mate wrote in his book: When the Body Just Says No. He explains first the hidden, and then the final exposure of the costs of stress in a persons’ life is illness and disease:
Can a person literally die of loneliness? Is there a connection between the ability to express emotions and Alzheimer’s disease? Is there such a thing as a “cancer personality”?Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection is providing answers about the effect of the mind-body link between illness and health and the role that stress and one’s emotional makeup as they play in an array of common diseases.
Our awareness of body symptoms needs to be examined. When you experience a headache or a cold, think back to what was happening earlier. Was it a ‘stressful’ time that you just went through? Did you argue with someone? There are now many known emotionally charged causes for the common maladies, and they map out to various kinds of ‘illnesses.’ Ulcers for worry, anger for kidney stones, loss of direction and purpose for depression; even wrist pain for not feeling we’re good enough and needing to control outcomes. High blood pressure is from feeling stuck in a situation of which there seems to be no resolution. The body is a map of our emotions-every symptom means something. Rather than reacting to our ‘sickness’ maybe we can respond to our body’s messages to us.
Everyone will suffer from a symptom at some time. Under stress, we become more vulnerable because we are interfering with the basics of health and wellbeing—the day-night cycle. Dr. Hans Selye, the master stress researcher, found the same things about prolonged stress—after a while under extreme stress—we just get sick.
The key to well-being is our capacity to adapt to change. When we spend all night on our tablets viewing posts and avoiding sleep, numbing out, etc. we may be using up some deep inner resources that in time we won’t be able to recover. The vital resources of life are unknowingly being used up. It is a lifestyle change and necessary for our overall wellbeing. The saying goes: Change is fundamental to life, but growth is optional.If we don’t grow through change, it may cost us our very lives.
Many of the chronic effects of stress directly correlate to not only how well we are, but also how long we live. When octogenarians were interviewed as to the reason they live so long, and why they are well, they often put it simply as this: I just try to be happy. George Burns, the actor who lived to be 100 and smoked a cigar almost every day, he put it this way: “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”