May 8, 2015

Two Inescapable Facts About Your Stress.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Stress is an issue everyone has heard about, which has had a downside: issue fatigue. Life is just as stressful as it was in the 1970s when the medical risks of stress were first being widely publicized, and the evidence has continued to mount that even low levels of chronic stress are harmful. But do you find yourself consciously following a stress reduction program?

I don’t want to reopen the vast discussion of stress that now exists, except to make two limited points. 1. Stress isn’t good for you, no matter what people claim. Highly competitive types who link their success with a belief that they thrive on stress are fooling themselves. 2. The vast majority of people do not deal with their stress effectively, which means that the mountain of findings about stress aren’t being taken personally. Unconscious resistance is winning the day.

Coming to grips with these two realities is critical for anyone who wants to create a conscious lifestyle. To be fully conscious is to be open, relaxed, ready to meet unknown challenges, and capable of fresh responses. When you are under stress, these qualities are compromised. Raise the stress high enough, and the conscious state is reversed. The mind closes down as an act of self-defense while body and brain chemistry suffer chemical changes that focus too much on threat, anxiety, and crisis. In such a state, someone who’s sitting in a normal office situation is reverting to the high-threat physiology of a prehistoric hunter trying to survive animal attack, or a solider on the battle lines awaiting the next assault. Stress creates a mismatch with reality around you.

The stress response is meant to be temporary, and when it persists beyond a few minutes, the physiology is out of balance form normal functioning; if it persists chronically, physical damage starts to occur. The hormones that are released in the body’s stress response, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are meant to throw your body out of homeostasis (normal dynamic balance) as an emergency measure. In an emergency you need blood for fight or flight more than you need it for digestion, for example. You also need a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure to pump more oxygen to your muscles.

The fight-or-flight response is triggered in a primitive area of the brain, opening up a privileged pathway that overrides the higher brain’s thinking capacity. That’s why you jump when you hear a loud bang and only a few seconds later start to think about whether it’s just a car backfiring or something dangerous. But if this pathway is triggered at a low level time and again, it begins to function when it shouldn’t, as witness workers who get sweaty palms if the boss simply walks by their desk.

No one can healthily sustain the heightened alertness, quick burst of energy, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and other marks of the fight-or-flight response. Physically, the hormone rush must come to an end, leading to the opposite state – you become drowsy, lose energy, and have a hard time remaining alert and focused. So-called adrenaline junkies deliberately induce an aroused state because they enjoy being excited, and they presumably value the courage, euphoria, and killer instinct that the stress response brings. What they overlook is the downside, the lower lows that lead to a need for more stress. In a young person the body may be resilient enough to seemingly sustain high-stress excitement, but mounting evidence is showing that stress can cause permanent changes at the level of gene activity. “Normal” stresses like being stuck in traffic contribute over time to hypertension and coronary artery disease, along with susceptibility to infections, insomnia, and much else.

Recent studies on the genetic effects of exercise, diet, meditation, and stress reduction conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish, a national expert on reversing heart disease, indicate that a positive lifestyle produces beneficial output from numerous genes. Early on it was thought that hundreds of genes benefitted; now it appears to be thousands. This finding implies that the same genes would be adversely affected by a negative lifestyle that ignores stress management.

The stress response isn’t standardized, and there are people with higher tolerance than others, just as there is for pain. But if you put soldiers under the high stress of battle, eventually all of them will become shell-shocked unless they are given time away from the front lines. The firefighters and police who responded on 9/11, a group self-selected to go into stressful situations, suffered high rates of post-traumatic symptoms.

Therefore, don’t try to make stress your ally, either by toughing it out or turning your back on the problem. The conscious choice is to recognize that modern life is a battleground of low-level stress, sometimes peaking into high stress, that will have a damaging effect over time unless you deal with everyday stressors in a consistent, effective way.


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Write Your Comment

  1. Mike

    Thank You for the insight. I have a friend that struggles with this and the explanation helps me understand what is going on and how to deal with it much better.

  2. Mike

    Thank You for the insight. I have a friend that struggles with this and the explanation helps me understand what is going on and how to deal with it much better.

  3. Gayle Taljaard

    As I was reading this, I felt relaxed.

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