As part of my ongoing “everything you need to know” series, I want to talk about a topic that, unfortunately, is familiar to all of us -- stress. We’re no stranger to stress, especially here in America. Americans are among the most stressed-out people in the world, according to Gallup’s annual Global Emotions report. Sadly, this does not surprise me!
Although we tend to think about stress in this negative way, stress is a very natural physical and mental reaction to whatever life throws at you. Even people living the most serene, peaceful lives experience stress. It’s totally normal! There is even a term for positive stress -- eustress. The issue is when we experience ongoing chronic stress, and it takes a toll on our health. In this case, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
Let’s take a closer look at stress.
The history of “stress.”
The term “stress” as it is currently used, was first used by Walter Cannon in 1915 in his work relating to developing the fight or flight response. Most people trace its origin back to a researcher named Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” Before that, the word stress was used in the 18th and 19th centuries as a physical science term and not in medicine or psychology. Back then if you had said “I’m so stressed out” no one would have known what you were talking about! Today that’s almost a part of our daily self-talk.
Selye pioneered the way in revealing the negative effects of long-term stress on health. His laboratory animal experiments showed the effects of different types of negative physical and emotional stimuli, such as deafening noise or extremes in temperature. The animals all exhibited stomach ulcerations, shrinkage of lymphoid tissue and enlarged adrenals. Later he proved that persistent stress could cause these animals to develop medical ailments similar to those humans experience -- everything from heart attacks to kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis. This was groundbreaking because at that time scientists and doctors believed that most diseases were caused by specific pathogens. But Selye’s work proposed that different stressors could cause the same disease, not only in animals, but also in humans.
What are the different types of stress?
As we go about our daily lives, we typically refer to stress in the context of negative situations -- bad traffic, difficult people or big bills. As mentioned above with Selye’s work, researchers have differentiate between two kinds of stress: eustress (positive stress) and distress (negative stress.)
Stress in a short-term situation is beneficial. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and get your muscles ready to respond. Stress can also motivate people to prepare or perform, such as for a big test at school or an interview for a new job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations, preparing you to face a threat or escape to safety.
As far as negative stress, there is a difference between acute stress and chronic stress (with chronic stress being much more destructive). Think of acute stress as a response to having an argument with your spouse or accidentally burning dinner. It’s an immediate problem, but it goes away fairly quickly. When your stress continues day after day, it is chronic stress.
The problem with long-term stress.
In my best-selling book, The Healing Code, I talk about stress being the primary source of illness and disease. Even the Centers for Disease Control says that 90 percent of health issues are related to stress!
When we are under stress, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. Over time this causes long-term damage to our immune system. Even more critical is the damage done at a cellular level.
Long-term exposure to stress causes our cells not to receive the nutrition, oxygen and minerals they need. They also don’t properly eliminate waste products and toxins. Everything stops working except for what is necessary to survive. This results in a toxic environment inside the cell. High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, plays several important roles in the body including regulation of blood sure and metabolism, as well as inflammation reduction and memory formulation. It is released during times of stress to help your body get an energy boost and better handle an emergency situation.
I certainly don’t have a problem with people working hard toward a goal and pushing themselves, but I do have a problem with where this drive comes from. The switch in your brain can put you in a hormonal/cortisol based energy drive. The problem is you have to pay the price for that and it’s called adrenaline overdose. After minutes, hours and weeks of this rush of energy, you eventually crash. Chronic, long-term stress chips away at your physical health. You can’t sleep, your digestive system is impacted and you can experience headaches and high blood pressure. You become much more susceptible to serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
How can we cope with stress?
Thankfully you can reduce stress in your lives. You can make conscious decisions to live a simpler lifestyle, which has been popular lately with those following the minimalist lifestyle.
More physical techniques include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga and tai chi. Even a single mindfulness meditation session can reduce anxiety, according to a 2018 study in Experimental Biology. People with anxiety showed reduced stress on the arteries after just a 1-hour introductory session.
Subconscious stress can also hold us back.
In addition to the more obvious situational stressors, there are also deep-seated, subconscious level fears that cause us stress. Your unconscious and subconscious mind’s negative cellular memories send a signal 24/7 -- anger, fear, etcetera -- to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls your body’s flip switch to stress. When this switch is flipped, as I explain in my Love Code video series, it compromises your immune system and leads to illness. On a positive note, this switch can be turned off if you replace memories of fear with memories of love.
Your cellular memories can put you into stress mode whether you are consciously thinking about them or not. In fact, our subconscious memories cause our stress more than 90 percent of the time. Healing negative memories of anger, hatred and unforgiveness is the key to long-term health and happiness.
How can you do that? For starters, you can use my Memory Engineering and Trilogy methods to become untethered from the toxicity of these memories. Stop being tied down to a stressed-out life and start being driven by love. Reexamine your lifestyle and make positive changes. Take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Live your best life!