Stressed Out? Think it Over.
In most cases, the things you do and say begin with the things you think and believe. Let’s face it. You are barraged by stressing circumstances and challenges every day. But how do you deal with them—or do you even try to take a proactive approach?
Imagine your life as a glass of water filled to the halfway mark. How would you describe your life—half full or half empty? Your answer may reveal a lot about your thought life and your life view. A positive view would say “half full” and would account for what you do have. A negative view, however, would say, “half empty” and would focus on what you don’t have.
We know that stress is a natural part of life and some experts would go so far as to say that stress is life. Psychologist and author Dr. Kevin Lehman said the best definition for stress he has ever found was, “the wear and tear on our bodies produced by the very process of living.” He explained that stress comes from good things as well as bad circumstances, but trouble comes when it goes on for days and weeks. As he put it: “It reminds me of buying the best Die-hard battery you can find, but if you have a habit of leaving the lights on, even a Die-hard finally runs down.”
How true. Are your life circumstances running your battery down? If so, you may need to manage your stress before it manages you.
Stress comes at you from at least four sources:
- Outward circumstances over which you have no control
- Circumstances or influences over which you do have control
- Inward attitudes, beliefs, and thought patterns
- Internal physical conditions
According to Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, cortisol and DHEA are two of the most critical stress hormones produced by your body. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that affects your body in ways very similar to prednisone. (It blocks inflammation and suppresses the immune system.) DHEA is the balancing hormone that reverses the effects of cortisol. (DHEA has anti-aging effects, boosts the immune system, and exerts key influence on sex hormones—thus fertility.) Both are produced by the adrenal cortex, which is directly affected by your brain. One of the most important keys to achieving a healthy life is to eat a diet and to live a lifestyle that promotes a healthy balance of cortisol and DHEA. When the two hormones are in balance, we experience excellent health physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The adrenals also produce the neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline. They also help regulate blood pressure as well as salt and water balance through the production of aldosterone, an antidiuretic hormone. Excess adrenaline (which happens when there is excessive stress) can wreak havoc on the human digestive system, skin, heart and circulatory system, and mental state. And excess cortisol, with its strong immunosuppressive powers, may even open the door to runaway infection, cancer, hyperthyroidism, poor wound healing, diabetes, infertility, and mental instability.
Negative thinking including anger, resentment, and a desire for revenge can all trigger the classic “alarm” response to stress, which involves adrenal gland hypertrophy (swelling), thymus and lymph gland atrophy (shrinkage), which indicates the suppression of the immune system, and gastric inflammation.
When it comes to stress, it seems that the body can handle the day-to-day emergencies and surprises without any problem—but when stress hangs on, it drains the adrenal system, making a “crash” inevitable.
In contrast, studies have shown that people “who experienced an episode of deep appreciation or love for five minutes saw their IgA levels (an antibody secreted in saliva and other body fluids as a first line of defense of infection) rise to 40 percent above normal and stay elevated for six hours. See how health-supporting those happy thoughts are?
And even simple lifestyle adjustments can make a significant difference in your stress levels. Try these:
- Think with a “glass half full” mindset. It not only improves your outlook and stress levels, but also can improve your health.
- Turn off your cell phone and computer. Take time to recharge your battery!
- Don’t eat on the run. Sit down and enjoy the nutritional break.
- Get proper rest. There simply is no substitute for quality sleep. It is the most important non-nutrient you can get for overall health.
The bottom line? Don’t let stress take the life out of you. Think about it. There is a better way!