9UNSTRESS-new.gif

Chronic stress increases cortisol and inflammation. Chronic conditions: anxiety, adrenal fatigue, depression, autoimmunity,  recurrent infections, heart disease. 

 

— CHALLENGES

High stress environments and lifestyles, overwork and workaholism, chronic unhappiness and lack of purpose, spiritual disconnection, dysfunctional family dynamics, oppressive social dynamics, adrenaline driven entertainment, insomnia.

 

— PREVENTION

Meditation, mindfulness practices, daily walks, conflict resolution, spiritual practice, napping, time-off and time-out, more sleep, intergenerational family healing, more social community.

 

OVERVIEW

Stress releases cortisol which increases inflammation. Chronic stress will make you sick.

Long-lasting psychological, emotional and physical stress is acidifying, immune suppressing, and  depleting. The stress response is triggered in our brainstem, also called our hindbrain or reptilian brain, which sends the 'flight or fight' signal to the adrenal glands. Adrenaline and cortisol are released, and the bodymind prepares to either run away or do battle. Either of those options is healthier than freezing. The freeze response ("I'll play dead and maybe this will go away") is the most debilitating, because it's disempowering and because it creates a body memory where trauma is encrypted—stored away to be healed at a later, safer time and place.

The stress response helps us to respond quickly to threats in our environment. It helps us survive. However, when stress is intermittent over a long duration, or even constant for a long period of time, the stress response cannot be sustained. The holistic health of the person begins to wear down. Chronic stress is bad for your systemic health. Cortisol tells your immune system to go into inflammation mode, and it channels energy away from digestion, detoxification and sexuality to give more energy to the stress response. That's great if you're being chased by a tiger. But if you're not, if the tiger is created by you in your head every morning to motivate you to do something...well, you're only creating a future heart attack, increasing your risk of cancer and inflammatory flare-ups, and setting yourself up to catch every cold and flu while you expend all your life energy fighting paper tigers.

If you're addicted to stress, addicted to cortisol, and relying on it to get yourself out of bed in the morning or to get through the next task, you may have to make some adaptive changes if you want to be healthy for life—and for a lifetime. Happily, to make this change you don't have to do anything. In fact, you get to do less. You get to stop doing for a few minutes.

Take a break, take a deep breath, close your eyes. Stop what you're doing for 20 minutes to alter your stress response, calm your thoughts, and shift the stress signals and pheromones. To be healthy and to maintain a state of health, you'll need to take charge of your stress body. Learn to drop down from fast beta brainwave frequency to slower alpha wave, theta wave, or even the deeper delta wave associated with cell regeneration. If you haven't learned to meditate, it's time. The ancient practice is as current today as ever. Meditation and mindfulness practices, like forest walking, decrease stress and increase happiness. They reduce stress on your heart, lift your spirit, calm your emotions, and free your mind from repetitive, habitual thoughts that keep you from being present, creative and conscious. Regular exercise also gives you relief from stress, as does play, power-napping, and making sure you get 8 hours of sleep at night.

Stress can also come from chronic infections that cause you to fight pathogenic microbes day in and out. Until those infections are healed, such as an infected root canal or Lyme disease, the peace you crave will evade you. So meditate on that. Meditation is also a way to scan your bodymind for information about what you need to heal to be well.

 

FURTHER READING