Newsletters: Volume 1 No. 2
This issue of our newsletter is dedicated to a pervading health opportunity (I prefer the word opportunity to the word problem). It's not a new issue, rather it is one that many have been taught to "tough out" or ignore. It effects all of us and can literally lead to serious illness, early aging, loss of memory, nervous disorders, sleeplessness, irritability, and much more. Indeed, it's accumulated effects can have devastating effects on all walks of life, from family and relationships to health, wealth and success.
Any issue that could effect us in so many areas should get a lot of attention. For years, in some small circles, the issue has been getting just this attention, but it's only of very late that the general public is beginning to be informed of the pernicious and accumulative effects of stress.
When I was a boy, "weak" people had nervous breakdowns. Just a few years ago the idea that stress could cause brain damage would have been laughed at by most scholars. To suggest a connection between stress and many illnesses, including the so-called nervous breakdown, would have been to take a poetic license, not a scientific stance. Stress was something we all withstood, the stronger better than the weak. After all, stress was like the proverbial "heat in the kitchen"--and if we couldn't take it, well "we should get out of the kitchen. Stress was often compared to the strengthening of steel--heat and cool it, heat it and cool it, and it became stronger. Strong people were forged by stress, or so some would say.
Well, the fact is, stress alters brain chemistry. Stress accumulates, and perhaps many of those so-called strong people pay the price later in life as a result. There are simple solutions to managing stress, for stress in our society is typically a matter of interpretation and reaction, or pro-action. Most of us do not have saber tooth tigers chasing us, it just sort of seems that way according to how we interpret the stimuli. So we worry about our finances, our relationships, our careers, our jobs, how we look, and so forth. In general, we worry about being what we believe we should or must be. Did we say the right thing, did we do the right thing, will we have enough money, do our peers respect us, do our loved ones care enough, and so forth. The list could be endless, for each of us shares certain common concerns (fears/stressors) and each of us have our own unique stressors. Still, before we look at some methods for stress management, let's look at some of the effects and influences this silent savage can have on the human condition.
Stress has been linked to everything from the common cold to immune deficiency diseases. Stress and distressors can be both everything we attempt to avoid, the Seyle model of stress, and much of what we actively seek. Indeed, many of our so-called thrillers are very stressful, and the brain does not distinguish neuro-chemically between the stressor and the thriller. So let's look at some of the chemical and behavioral factors involved.
The Role of Stressors and Thrillers
A heightened state of arousal is a state of stress. Arguably, the state described as "My life sucks," is a chronic state of stress. It is a state that requires constant vigilance in order to defend the right to live which is, if nothing else, the evolutionary biological prime directive. Unfortunately, one of the more pervasive aspects of stress within the individual and society at large is denial. This is, in part, because stress is easily misunderstood. That may sound strange, but the fact is, stress impacts everyone, as I said before, yet it is often unrecognized and more often ignored. After all, everyone has a little stress in their lives--don't they?
Stress leads an attack on the immune system. A stressful event is often followed by a simple cold or flu. This is not a coincidence. Let stress accumulate over a long period of time and there is nothing simple about the kinds of diseases that have been linked to immune system failures. Ignore it, deny it, and almost every undesirable woe seems to have some connection with doing so.
Here are some facts about stress:
According to the cognitive
approach in psychology, there are temperamental and cognitive vulnerability
factors that exacerbate the effect of continued arousal. They are:
According to Sullivan's compensation
model of behavior, a certain portion of the population with the described
vulnerability factors would naturally compensate for their perceived failure
in the following self expressed attitudinal manner:
These cognitions, distortions,
have been categorized by Jennifer Campbell, as:
In my book, Wellness: Just A State of Mind?, the connection between stress and helplessness, the feeling that there was simply nothing that could be done, suggests that stress is both more virulent and ubiquitous than any other threat to the human condition. Further, my research in areas such as school violence have led me to conclude that stressors and thrillers can literally destroy the human-ness in being human.
Some Simple Antidotes
Laugh. Laugh as much and as often as you can. There is no such thing as too much laughter.
Smile. Smile even when you think you can't. It may surprise you, but smiling fools the brain. The simple muscle movement somehow tells the brain that everything is "just peachy" and the brain releases chemicals such as endorphins which make us feel good in fact. So, fake it until you make it---SMILE!
Exercise. Yes, exercise. Take a walk, get outside, breathe some fresh air (just wander a little and "stop to smell the roses") if you're not one who enjoys a vigorous work out. Recent research has shown that just going for a walk can be a magic pill for living longer and healthier lives.
Use a support system. Talk to your friends and family. Listen to them. Share. In the proverbial, get it off your chest.
Put things in the proper perspective. Will it matter six months or a year from now? What really does matter in the great grand scheme of things? Is there really anything that can be done? Is it worth your health and happiness?
Desensitize. Let things go. At least once a day, relax, let go, and just close your eyes for a few minutes and BE. Meditation is a powerful aid in letting go and re-centering your being. Disconnect from habitual thought patterns that produce stress--all the what ifs? All the I wished I had of _____ stuff. Center yourself and spend a moment in gratitude. Find something to be grateful for. It's really not hard. You can be grateful for life, for a friend, for a pet, for a flower, for a rainbow, for a fragrance--you name it, but spend a moment focusing on gratitude. Feel grateful. Like a smile, gratitude cancels so much of the negative psychological baggage one can acquire. In my offices we have buttons that say:
I Have A Gratitude Attitude!
Now, if you want to use technology
to do things the fast and easy way, and/or for those of you who may wish
more immediate help dealing with the stress in your life, we have created
a special library (http://www.innertalk.com/
Now, for more on stress and some of the alternative life styles that one can adopt to lower the impact of stressor , I highly recommend the following sites. Just click on them if your browser allows, I'm sure you'll find them very informative. What ever you do, do something. Take a proactive stance now, for as the headline in the Washington Post story (shown as a link below) puts it, "Stress is being linked to heart disease, immune deficiency and memory loss. The worst part is, we inflict it on ourselves."
For more on stress (highly recommended) go to the site below. Until next time, BE WELL & HAPPY!
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