Stress & Anxiety
Stress is the go-to word for why people get sick. It is the number one reason for pain and the thing behind almost all doctors' visits. If stress could be mitigated, then people would get sick much less often. However, stress is a reality and everyone deals with it in some form or another every day. The entire body stores stress, and it causes many down-stream illnesses as a result. Insomnia, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, colds and virus', diabetes, circulation issues, to name a few. Stress negatively affects the energy flow in the body and the capacity to recover from illnesses. At New Human, the majority of our work focus' on stress and how it affects the physiology and emotional well being of your clients.
The following New Human botanicals are designed to support the body and modulate the effects of stress, alongside an active stress management plan.
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Stress and Healing
Emotional stress is all too common and, left ignored, can cause perceptible and measurable changes in physiology. This can be harmful enough, but a potentially greater threat can come from the imperceptible changes that occur. These changes often remain unresolved, creating stressors that can lead to illness and disease.
Norman Cousins, in his book Head First, reports the finding of Aaron Frederick Rassmussen, Jr., immunologist at the UCLA School of Medicine, who “explored the relationship between stress and susceptibility to viral infection... and found that stress diminished the size of the immune organs and the number of immune cells and increased the severity of illness reactions to viral exposure.”
Understanding stress rests entirely on putting some order into the chaotic mass of things we already know about it. We know, for example, that the stress of life is always concerned with people or people-things, that it is always concerned with coping with the adversities in life, and that the adversities are what we perceive to be difficulties in the way of achieving one or another goal in life. Nothing about stress is physical. Tracking stress within the mind and body and discovering how the mind can warp its self and the body as well is mainly an exercise in drawing conclusions from common experiences and from the experiential and scientific consensus.
The starting point is cataloging the outstanding characteristics of stress. There are, as I see it, three special features of stress: it is unique to the individual, it depends upon interactions with other human beings and it incubates within the mind.
While many people encounter similar kinds of stressful situations, the circumstances are always unique for each individual. Not only is every human relationship special in some way, but the meaning of events, circumstances, and relationships depend upon how each person perceives them, and that in turn depends upon each person’s way of user experience, teaching, culture, and personality characteristics to shape individual attitudes and beliefs and expectations.
The dependence of stress and stress reactions on the circumstances and dynamics of human interaction means that stress cannot be separated from life itself. Everything people believe in, everything they value, love, respect, desire, admire, or long for, is rooted in what other people think, have thought, and will think. Human beings are not merely born of other human beings—what they are in life is how other human beings shape them during their lifetimes and generations of lifetimes before them. Stress is the pressure to be the way other people feel we should be and the struggle to reconcile a unique inner life with the pressures to be what the other people believe we should be.*
All reactions to stress begin as concerns about relationships with people or things created by people. When life becomes even slightly difficult, human beings instinctively try to remedy their troublesome predicaments, and they are successful more often than not.
Most people learn during the course of life how to handle different kinds of life’s stresses. But because stress comes from human interactions and always involves other people, even good solutions don’t always work to quash the stress. Life’s circumstances can sometimes be so involved no solution to its problems can be truly effective. As stress continues, mind and body brace for the next episode. Concern about the stress builds, frustration sets in, worry begins, and feelings intensify and the reactions involve more and more of the mind’s and brain’s and body’s energy. The energies are no longer devoted to trying to achieve goals or satisfying living; the energies become misdirected into two very difficult tasks; trying to cope and continuing to try to achieve and live a reasonably satisfying life.
The committed wife who becomes emotionally unsettled after months of domestic quarreling begins to understand that it is not just the quarrels that are distressing. She becomes aware that the emotions she has before, during and after the quarrels interfere with all of her other activities in life. She begins to realize that all her functioning is disturbed. If she works, her work does not go well; if she has children to care for, she feels she is not doing a good job as a mother. In moments of reflection, she can trace these changes and her diminished functioning back to the quarrels, and rightly so. But what she may not be aware of then is that she is incubating a stress illness and that if the stress continues, or more stress comes along, she is a good candidate for therapy or will need treatment for ulcers or some other psychosomatic or psychological ailment.
The concerns about the self excite disturbing images, and with every ill-omened, unhappy, discouraging image, the body involved in the image actually responds. When images are not favorable for the welfare of the self, such as images of being rejected, the body responds with an unfelt, but nonetheless real, physical echo of a posture of rejection. The little known but profound effects of images on the body’s functioning are discussed in detail in Chapter 10.
There are other, insidious, slow-growing psychotoxic effects of stress on mind and body. When the images of the past or possible future hurt involve the body and the body reacts to the images, the body tensions of the reactions also send messages to the brain where they become recognized as sensations of tensions, the feelings we cal anxiety. The tensions are then “felt”, and because the body tensions and changes are worrisome or frightening, conscious attention focuses on the sensations and not on the reasons for them, which would enable the person to solve the problem and relieve the stress.
As a matter of fact, there is usually such a long time and such a tenuous connection between the events causing the feelings of stress and finally becoming aware that the unsettled feelings are indeed caused by those particular events that people rarely connect the two until the body’s reactions either begin to malfunction or cause some kind of distress (headache, insomnia). Within the brain, the messages about the body’s tensions combine with the mind’s concern about well being, and the mind is suddenly confronted with two unknowns instead of only one: why the body is disturbed and why the mind is disturbed. Relationships gone sour are worrisome—the first effect is worry. The second effect is the body’s reaction to the images of worry, and the third reaction is the awareness of the sensations that come from the body’s reactions to worry (to the images).
It only gradually seeps into conscious awareness that there is probably some relationship between what we are worrying about and the way we feel, emotionally or physically. Some people make a general association, such as, “I really feel lousy, but that’s probably because I’ve had so much pressure on the job.” Other people may make a little more accurate assessment, such as, “Being on this training program sure has my gut all tied up in knots,” or “I’m so nervous about whether my husband may lose his job I can’t breathe.” Notice that we usually tie worries or anxieties to some physical symptom. The main reason, as I noted earlier, is because we never feel the physiological changes going on in the body until they reach a point where the disturbance of a function becomes uncomfortable enough to attract attention. Those physical changes, however, have been developing for some time.
With continued stress or our continued reactions to a particular stress, comes an even more disastrous change in the body. The body adapts. That is, it accepts the higher levels of tension in the muscles or gut or blood pressure as a new “normal” state and pushes its functioning to compensate for the new strain on the systems. It is a peculiarity of human physiological systems, such as muscles and viscera, that they literally stop sending messages to the brain about their states of tension if earlier messages have not been noted. Take the common tension headache, for example. The muscle tensions have been developing all day, but the mind has been forced to pay attention to more pressing problems, and so the muscle tensions around the head are not felt until they become strong enough to demand attention.
The most extraordinary feature of the stress of life is that it is the only disease process in which events in the mind affect the actual physical functions of the brain. Until recently such a statement would have been viewed as heretical to health science dogma; however, it is now being accepted, albeit somewhat vaguely that, as Dr. Sperry wrote, “Mental events determine brain events and brain events determine mind events.”* This mutual effect between mind and brain during the development of stress is described in Chapter 10.
There are still more fascinating special features about the stress of life. The first is that the damage it does to mind and body is never “cured” in the traditional sense. We do not take away stress germs, nor can we surgically remove the stress of life. What we can do and what is the basis of all stress management, is literally to teach the mind and body not to react to stressful circumstances in a harmful way.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s reduce all stress reactions, from insomnia to hypertension or unusually frequent epileptic seizures, to the single entity of tensions of the mind and body (which it actually is). The tensions are present because, over time, and without conscious awareness of them, mind and body have developed states of uptightness, and the physiological mechanisms of the organism have “learned” to operate in this state of tension. The tense state becomes the operational mode of the organism.
The psychological approach to relief from these tension states, whether therapy or counseling, is to help the person understand the sources of stress and enable him/her to develop mental and behavioral ways to deal with the sources of stress. The result of this kind of therapy is that the more the person understands about his stress and how to handle it, the less he tends to react to future stress situations. With fewer reactions of mind and body, the innate regulating mechanisms of the body gradually allow a return to normal or near normal states of functioning.
In a somewhat similar way, the body awareness techniques used in stress management help the individual to become aware enough of his body tension reactions that he comes to recognize that he is under stress sooner and so begins to deal with the stress sooner. That is, learning to be aware when the body tensions are developing alerts the individual to begin coping with the tension-producing situations while they are happening. As learning proceeds, the individual learns to begin body relaxation more and more promptly. As the individual becomes more proficient in not reacting to stress, here, too, as with psychological alertness, the body’s normal physiological regulating systems are allowed to return to normal functioning and the effects of previous stress gradually diminish and may disappear.
Stress has become endemic so quickly, it has literally stepped on its own toes. Dozens of stress reduction or stress management techniques have been newly devised, yet no one really knows the best ways to use them nor why they do what they do. There has been, in fact, little if any general constructive agreement about what causes the stress of life. Experts who treat stress problems list endless examples of things that are stressful, but there are no satisfactory explanations of what it is about those things that makes them stressful. Yet many people, including the experts, have little doubt about what stress is for them personally, and they can empathize well with other people about their stress. Everyone has felt the pressure of stress and everyone knows that more than likely there is more stress to come. They are, however, hard put to put their fingers on how it happens or why.
Ask a thousand people and you’ll get a thousand answers about what is stressful in life. They will say, “Oh, it’s the pressures I feel at work,” or “It’s the tensions in the family now that Dad is living with us,” or “It’s worrying about not being able to make ends meet,” or “It’s not knowing how to carry on now that poor Harry is gone,” or “It’s being lonely and not being able to make friends.”
Almost by consensus we tacitly agree that the stress of life is the encounters we have in life that make living more difficult than we think it should be; encounters with people or people-things or people-surrogates (like the IRS) that challenge our abilities and our hopes and dreams.
- Stress is Mom going to work at 42, starting over in the workplace that is no longer yesterday’s familiar shop or office, while chores at home haunt her with demands on her time and energy.
- Stress is a spouse’s wandering eye and body, irregular hours, obvious excuses, changing moods, or being unbearably preoccupied.
- Stress is not feeling well and not knowing why, waiting hours in the doctor’s office, not knowing where to get the right kind of medical help.
- Stress is worrying about getting through school, about finishing assignments on time, unfair tests, misleading courses, about how much school is enough.
- Stress is changing jobs, buying new houses, hunting apartments, getting divorced, parenting.
- Stress is suppressing anger, resentment, fear, and worry.
- Stress is caring for a handicapped child, a child being bussed or not bussed, stumbling on drugs in an offspring’s room.
- Stress is paying high bills on a low budget, using less energy and paying more for it, the unexplained cancellation of car insurance, watching food prices leap forward, being audited by the IRS.
- Stress is the grey pall of winter skies, allergies borne on the wind, hot weather, high humidity.
- Stress is an unfriendly boss, scheming colleagues, being overlooked at promotion time, playing the work game and losing.
- Stress is not being able to communicate well, fearing failure, feeling guilty, making goofs, gaffes, and faux pas.
- Stress is the death of a loved one, being the victim of a crime, having a major accident, losing one’s job.
- Stress is coping.
The stress of life is, in short, nothing more—and nothing less—than the jostling back and forth of human beings seeking fulfillment within the very human surroundings they seek it in. The stress of life originates in the kinds of things that can and often do happen to most people in the course of a lifetime.
Stress is, then, any obstacle in the way of finding satisfaction in life. The puzzle of stress is why, if it is just living, has it become the most insidious, harmful affliction man has ever faced? The stress of life can wound the psyche, wrench the emotions, derange the mind, impair the body, and extinguish life.
The most bothersome question about stress is one that is quite generally ignored. This is the peculiar (and frightening) way stress affects the human organism. Stress produces its effects on mind and body surreptitiously, accumulating silently, wounding the inner substance until finally, the mind and body functions can no longer keep up any pretense of normal activity. Not until we understand the way stress abuses the body’s functions (including the brain’s) so quietly and malignantly can stress be managed effectively. Stress is a whole new and different kind of ailment from the kinds of illnesses familiar to medicine and psychology. What causes stress does not cause illness. Stress as “the stress of life,” first disturbs the equanimity of the mind. As the mind absorbs a difficulty in life, it becomes disturbed, and it is the mental disturbance that causes the hundreds of emotional and physical illnesses.
The unique feature of stress that makes it so wholly new as a source of impaired mind and body function is that the entire process by which it produces its effects is carried out by the very ordinary (and normally functioning) activities of the mind. Most people of the Western world have been conditioned by every authority they know—parents, teachers, counselors, and doctors—to believe that the only time thinking can cause emotional or physical problems is when thinking itself is sick (or lazy or too egocentric, etc.). The upshot of this cultural injunction is that we are thoroughly brainwashed to believe that if we are normal, then we should know how to cope with life’s common difficulties. The result of this is that we become saddled with two worries instead of the one problem we first started worrying about. The first worry is the difficult situation we are facing while the second is worrying that we may not be able to cope!
The crucial role of the mind’s activities in stress is underscored by the very personal way its effects are expressed. Everyone’s stress is different, everyone’s problems are different from everyone else’s, and everyone handles problems differently. Each person has a personal, special way of handling the obstacles in the way of living a tolerable and reasonable, satisfying life. In these modern days of changing values, changing family relationships, confrontations, economic hardships, constant demands for performance in the marketplace, and confusing media messages about human strengths and weaknesses, only hermits can escape the stress of life. And because the circumstances for stress are everywhere yet each life is lived differently and moves in different spheres, the circumstances of stress are, too, very
(Refer to the “Five Elements” and “Oriental Relationships” laminates)
Diathesis is a constitutional predisposition or tendency toward a particular disease or other abnormal state or condition of the body or mind.
The inherited tendency or genetic predisposition toward sensitivities can be addressed from the perspective of the diatheses and the Chinese model of medicine. Oriental relationships can provide additional clues to the underlying issues behind sensitivities, and the diathetic formulas themselves can address one’s genetic disposition for sensitivity by supporting the elimination of allergic tendencies at a cellular level. Diathetic numbering is somewhat arbitrary, and also, diathetics would be considered an adjuvant therapy that would be used to enhance a sensitivity protocol.
- (Water) (Geno 1) pertains to conditions of fluid retention: swelling and puffiness of the skin and mucous membranes, and water retention in general. The organs are (again, not surprisingly) kidney and bladder. Fear, nervousness, and insecurity fit this element well. As the old expression goes, “Only God and the laundryman know how scared I really was.”
- (Earth) (Geno 2 and 2h) is associated with chronic, long-standing reactions, where symptoms tend to develop slowly over time and are generally associated with food. The primary organs are the spleen and pancreas; the secondary organ is the stomach. Worry, sympathy or obsession may be involved. The expression “worried sick” doesn’t have to mean sudden onset, although the nervous stomach goes along well with it.
- (Wood) (Geno III) is tied to acute reactions of sudden onset, often accompanied by an irritable, hyperactive emotional response. According to the Chinese model, the primary organ of involvement is the liver, and the secondary organ is the gallbladder. The emotions just so happen to be anger, irritability, and frustration, undoubtedly tied to the “liver complaints” familiar to past generations. Most sensitivities start in this category and, unless the condition is corrected, it can shift eventually to more significant diatheses.
It should be pointed out here, relative to homotoxicology, that the placement of Diathesis 1 in the Deposition Phase column of the laminate is not necessarily discrepant. Minteer’s original classifications were based upon the presentation of clinical symptomatology; that is, it was the more intense symptoms typical of the Deposition phase that brought patients into his study, and this becomes his starting point for defining the diatheses. Reckeweg, on the other hand, considered the more mundane and commonly ignored excretory processes as the foundation of his theory. Both perspectives are correct.
- (Metal) (Geno 4) deals with histamine-related reactions, usually involving the skin or lungs. The skin, of course, is the body’s second breathing apparatus. Histamine is released in the body in response to acute toxicity; respiratory distress, skin inflammation, and diarrhea can all be prominent as part of the detoxifying process. Not surprisingly, the primary organs are the lungs, secondarily the large intestine. And it almost stands to reason that grief and sadness, the “gut-wrenching” and tearful emotions, come into play.
- (Fire) (Geno 5) involves acute reactions, with accompanying general weakness and fatigue. The primary and secondary organs are the heart and small intestine, respectively. Rage, hysteria (joyous, as opposed to manic) and impatience can play a role here. Rage and hysteria both can be offshoots of impatience, which lends itself well to the “hasty heart”.
Most foods are basically made up of various combinations of chemical compounds called hydrocarbons. A subcategory of complex hydrocarbons is the phenolic group. Phenolics are aromatic compounds, essential to plant growth and development. Aside from occurring naturally in plants, they are widely used in natural and synthetic forms as food coloring, flavoring and preserving agents. They are also responsible for many food sensitivities. In fact, what has often been considered a food sensitivity is actually a sensitivity to a phenolic (or combination of phenolics) within the food rather than the whole food itself. Phenolics have been determined to be the basis for other, larger sensitivities. Some are found in a wide range of foods; quercetin, for instance, a bioflavonoid, is found in almost 80% of common foods. Others are found in only certain foods. Many times disparate food sensitivities will have a common link in complex hydrocarbons. By addressing phenolic sensitivity, it may be possible to eliminate a food sensitivity. Continuing to cover phenolic sensitivity will then allow room for the detoxification process to take place unhindered.
Some of the possible toxic influences of phenolics have been studied only since the 1960s. Studies have shown that certain phenolics not only stimulate the adrenal glands to release catecholamines (the adrenal hormones that are responsible for prolonging the short-term “fight or flight” stress response) but also extend the life and consequently the action of these hormones. Therefore, what should be a brief alarm response—involving elevated blood sugar and blood pressure, vasoconstriction and cardiac stimulation— becomes a sustained reaction, supported by phenolics. Additionally, they can increase membrane permeability, thus intensifying cellular responses to catecholamines and other active substances, and influencing electrolyte balances. The relationship between phenolics and epinephrine, the primary hormone and neurotransmitter involved in stress responses, has been suspected of leading to hyperactivity and bedwetting in sensitive children. Researchers have hypothesized that the unnecessary stimulation and release of catecholamines by phenolics causes neurotransmitter depletion in the central nervous system, which then leads to depression.
Concomitant means occurring or existing at the same time as something else.
Phenolics are suspected to play a significant part in concomitant or crossover reactions. These are reactions that not only appear together as a result of mutually aggravating sensitivities but also actually reinforce each other. This could be due to either: a) the presence of common reactive phenolics, or b) a synergistic effect that compounds reactivity. Of greater importance to the client is the fact that stress response to one of these sensitivities may not be resolved successfully unless the others are addressed also. Some concomitant substances have been well researched and verified; others certainly remain to be identified. The practitioner should be aware of these relationships when dealing with stubborn allergic responses. Known concomitant groups include:
- Milk, elm, ragweed. Drinking milk during ragweed season can be an impediment to dealing with ragweed alone. Conversely, milk intolerance may be all the more difficult to handle if elm or ragweed pollens are active.
- Cedar, yeast, sugar, Alternaria mold. Sensitivity to cedar can be related to the presence of pathogenic yeast, which can be related to sugar intolerance.
- Grasses, corn pollen, wheat, B vitamins.
- Cottonwood, sage, coffee, legumes.
To understand more about the connection between phenols and reactions, read this article.
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The parts of the stress story that interest professional helpers and healers are the “officially” recognized disturbances that living with stress can cause. In Table 1 I have listed the major examples of human emotional and physical distresses that are caused by, triggered by, or aggravated by “the stress of life.” The consensus of the medical and psychotherapeutic communities is that each ailment, disorder, distress, and emotional or behavioral problem is either caused by or remarkably worsened by stress.
The implications of the list in Table 1 for the health of our society are staggering. Taken together with the nameless mini-miseries of everyday stress that attack nearly everyone (and sometimes are the incubation periods of the ills in Table 1), these ills and difficulties can no doubt account for all but a relatively small part of all the discomforts and ills of the world.
In contrast, the causes of all other human ills are remarkably few in number. Infections, physical injury, and biochemical or tissue abnormalities, along with genetic and birth defects, are the sole causes of illnesses except for stress. And some experts believe that stress predisposes to the occurrence of nearly all of these other kinds of human ills.
The question so critical to human well beingness is—what signs and symptoms did the people show while they were developing all these ills? None? Oh come now, certainly some psychological change preceded the sexual impotency; certainly some behavior gave away the approaching delinquency; certainly, some altered moods signaled imminent neurosis.
Certainly, there are antecedents, some warning signals that the psyche has been bruised, or that some biological function is weakening. There are, of course, but the problem is how to capture those fleeting, variable, indistinct, hard-to-describe feelings and forebodings that all is not really well, and then put them into some kind of sensible arrangement that can foretell the more serious ills.
There was a time when we knew nothing of the unseen forces of the universe. Then, bit by bit the forces, still unseen, were captured by the shadows they cast on time and space, and now we are in bold control of outer space. So too, I think, we can learn to capture the operations of the unseen inner forces that determine our control over inner space.
Every now and then someone comes along with an observation about life that is so on the mark and such a compact summary of what we all know but can never say in words that the expression is immediately adopted as the perfect way to express the feelings we all share about one or another circumstance of life (stay cool: it’s the pits).
It was this way when Selye first used the expression “the stress of life.” Everyone knew immediately what it meant, and although people have been talking about stress for hundreds of years, the misery of life has never been captured so succinctly nor so well. Before Selye, stress was usually related to especially unfortunate circumstances or especially heavy pressures of business. When Selye’s expression revealed the ordinariness of stress, so common it could be felt everywhere in life, people suddenly realized that life was, indeed, stressful.
Seyle’s insight, like all sudden revelations, was disarmingly simple. And deceptively profound. What he was saying was that the difficulties people face as they adjust to the ebb and flow of their life situations create changes within human beings that disrupt their psychological equilibrium. It is a simple observation and one that immediately suggests at least three more observations about the endless successions of ups and downs that punctuate even the most ordinary life. We know, for example, that sometimes the stress of adversity can galvanize our energies in such a way that we conquer the adversity. We know, too, that at other times we fail, and when adversity exhausts our capacity for the struggle, we become distressed. And most of us know that at still other times the stress can become more than our minds and bodies can endure, and we fall victim to true illness.
Out of this one simple observation—that life is stressful—has come a hodgepodge of new notions about health and illness. In a way, the health sciences were caught short by Selye’s observation. The stress Selye was talking about was the nebulous, ill-defined difficulties people have when they are interacting with each other and with people-things, but difficulties that nonetheless cause real distress and illness. Until “stress” came along, the healing arts lived by the idea of one specific cause for one specific kind of distress, such as pneumococci causing pneumonia, or crowding causing violence or lack of insulin causing diabetes. Now suddenly the health sciences were faced with a very different concept about the cause of human afflictions, the notion that the intangible events of just trying to live can cause physical ailments. Almost from out of nowhere came research, clinics, authorities, and yes, TV commercials, proclaiming stress to be the number one enemy of health. Still, the new revelations focused on the drama of the grim consequences of stress and how to treat them rather than stimulating professionals to discover exactly how stress causes so much trouble for human beings.
As a matter of fact, Selye had uncovered some tantalizing clues in his work on a different kind of stress. Another of his profound observations was when, as a medical student, he observed that all illness, regardless of cause, shared the common feature of what we recognize as the look of sickness. That is, no matter whether the illness is caused by injury, infection, or chemical assaults to the body, each cause also produced a second kind of reaction that makes all sick people have a similar “look.” Selye called it “just being sick.” And in an arduous, prolonged research effort, Selye discovered the biochemical and endocrine mechanisms that were common to all kinds of physical ills regardless of the nature of the cause.
I have long suspected that a similar, parallel reaction occurs whenever the psyche is abused. Any impact on the mind or body or spirit not only damages the specific part of being affected, it also diminishes the whole organism. The parallel to Selye’s “just being sick” is “just being stressed.” That is, the effects of the stress of life are twofold: one is the specific stress such as job stress that very specifically disturbs the particular feelings about one’s work and one’s relationships with the work environment, while the second effect is the nonspecific effect on the psyche that diminished participation in life in general and saps the energy of mind and body and spirit. If the psyche contains the drive toward fulfillment, then the main effects of all stress must be on the psyche. All other effects on the mind, body and spirit are secondary.*
Stress & SpectraVision
Stress can be defined as a maladaptive response to change in the environment. The psychophysiology techniques employed through the use of SpectraVision feedback systems are being used with great success in determining the current stress status of the individual and selecting the best modes of therapy for the elimination of the stressors.