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Stress And Force Of Habit


This is a companion article to the ANXIETY AND TRANCEFORMATION article.

"Stress and anxiety have become synonymous."
"Most of us are immersed in environments that are relentlessly stressful to us"
"An immense amount of our energy is siphoned off into coping with stress, to the neglect of the vitally important work of strengthening our bodies and building up our immunity and our health."
"Stress takes a tremendous toll on our peace of mind and our health."
"Anxiety about what isn't happening prevents us from being ready and fit to deal adequately with what is happening."
"Almost every major illness that people acquire has been linked to chronic stress" (Bruce Lipton; The Biology of Belief, p. 121).

Our stress is trying to kill us, but it need not.

Chronic Stress is Anxiety

In his pioneering work on stress, Hans Selye (The Stress of Life and Stress without Distress) gave us a lasting definition of stress. It is the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), which is defined as the energy that we expend any time we have to make an adjustment to something new. This energy is expended by the body in an effort to return to our baseline resting metabolism, or homeostatic balance, after dealing with a stressor.

Life would be impossible-not to mention boring-without stress. Even physical movement and minor adjustments in thinking and in dealing with environmental changes cause a small amount of stress. These stresses are part of life and usually we don't notice them; they're quite bearable. Some people even enjoy a certain level of stress; they think of it as a stimulating challenge and they enjoy the body's release of endorphins into the blood stream. But if we experience stress in sufficiently high amounts, or if stress is unrelieved over time-if it becomes chronic-stress can be very destructive to our mental and physical health.

Considering the way we use the word "stress" in today's world, a good case can be made that stress and anxiety have become synonymous. When people talk about feeling stressed, they don't mean it in a good way; in today's world the word has no positive meaning. Nowadays "stress" means "stressed" or even "stressed out." It means anxious, worried, and exhausted.

Stress Response, Threat, Healing and Immune System

When we feel stressed our body engages a biochemical response that is designed to defend us against an environmental threat. It is the "stress response." This response is based on the fear of a threat to our well being. A threat to our well being is a threat to our very survival, so the body and mind take it very seriously.

Our stress response is the same one experienced by all mammals. It is triggered by any sense of threat or fear and it is designed to ensure our survival from that threat. In the rest of the animal kingdom this response is only triggered by an actual threat or by an implied threat, gesture, or similar environmental stimulus. For the stress response to be triggered there need not be any actual threat, only the perception of a threat.

Fear causes the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis to begin its cascade of hormonal activity. This cascade causes the adrenal glands to release "stress hormones" into the bloodstream: it triggers the body's "flight or fight" response. These hormones immediately shut off the blood supply, along with its nourishment, to the digestive tract and they increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and oxygenation: they put pressure on the heart and circulatory system while ignoring digestion, the health of the stomach and intestines, healing and cell repair, and energy storage. They force the blood supply out to our limbs so we can quickly deal with the threat (or the perceived threat).

A second result of the stress response is to suppress the body's immune system. The immune system defends the body against threats from the inside, threats like bacterial or viral invasions. When the HPA axis is activated by fear, the body's main blood and energy supply is directed away from the center of the body and outward to the limbs. This shifts the body's biological priority from one of growth, development, healing, and cell repair to one of defense. The priority is to fight off or escape from the threat, not to thrive and to replace worn out, damaged or mutated cells or build up fresh tissue, such as brain cells. Temporarily the body is in a weakened condition with respect to its own health and healing needs.

Stress, Mind and Imagination

There's nothing wrong with any of this in the short run. The body can recover from brief spells of indigestion and decreased immunity. The problem is that most of us are immersed in environments that are relentlessly stressful to us. Our condition of stress isn't temporary. Too frequently there is no break from the stress and no time for our body to recoup, repair, and reestablish its resting metabolism.

This is not because most of us live in the jungle with lions and tigers. It is because, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, humans are not just stressed by actual physical environmental threats. The typical workplace doesn't feature hungry lions and tigers. At the office we are not stressed by beasts of prey, we are stressed by what is going on in our mind and in our imagination. Unlike the rest of the mammals, we are subject to anxiety.

Stress, Anxiety, Health and Healing

Anxiety is a state of mind in which there is fear and dread of negative events that have not happened. It is the anticipation, apprehension, and even the expectation of negative experiences. Antelopes don't imagine threats to themselves from predators in advance. They perceive threats, run away, and then their body returns to its basal resting metabolic state. Humans, on the other hand, often live in a state of constant stress and threat because in our mind we are imagining all the things that could go wrong, such as losing our job, fighting with our spouse, being bullied, bad report cards, being in a car or plane accident, getting old and dying, and millions of other things that animals never worry about. That keeps us in a constant mental and physical state of threat/defense/anxiety/hyper-vigilance; our body is not returning to its basal resting metabolic rate. The body never gets the chance to recover, recoup and rebuild. The result is poor healing, poor recovery, and chronic debilitating illness and disease conditions-such as cardiovascular and auto-immune diseases, atherosclerosis, arthritis, hypertension, cancer, and juvenile diabetes-that are disabling and killing us. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and the rest of the "developed" world. It is the number one killer of both men and women.

Stress also takes a heavy toll on our mental health. It robs us of our peace of mind and happiness, and it is implicated in the neurophysiology of depression. Research is increasingly demonstrating that depression is not caused by a "chemical imbalance," but instead by the shrinking of the brain's prefrontal cortex tissue and by chronically high levels of stress steroids. Apparently the brain is unable to maintain its health in the face of chronic stress. (Rather than leave on this note, let me add that the mind is capable of prompting the nervous system to develop new neurons and neurological connections such that mood disorders, steroid imbalances, and brain issues can be compensated by "brain plasticity."

An immense amount of our energy is siphoned off into coping with stress, to the neglect of the vitally important work of strengthening our bodies and building up our immunity and our health.

But it doesn't have to be like that.

Stress, Anxiety, Health and Mental Habits

Anxiety and stress have become synonyms because the condition we now call stress is a constant state of fearfulness, worry and apprehension about what might happen in the future. It is anxiety. It is feeling afraid and insecure; it is feeling that your world is dangerous and uncertain. It is unrelenting: it has no beginning and it has no end. It is a mental state where our thoughts are focused solely on negative events and outcomes that have not occurred, or else that once did occur and that now we fear will be repeated. Anxiety about what isn't happening prevents us from being prepared and fit to deal adequately with what is happening. Anxiety is the inability to attain a state of calm and peace, where the mind is still and the body can recover, heal, and attain its natural state of health and balance.

Stress takes a tremendous toll on our peace of mind and our health. In time, it will be shown that all of our acquired major illnesses are linked to chronic stress. In his seminal book, Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, Kenneth Pelletier explained the connection between our mental habits, or patterns of thinking, and cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and respiratory disease. The same mind that causes you to have a healthy body can cause you to have an unhealthy one-by force of habit.

You can stop leaving your stress level and your health to chance. Negative habits of mind that are causing negative habits of health can be cleared up and Tranceformed.

This is a companion article to the ANXIETY AND TRANCEFORMATION article.

Kohlhagen - Think Responibly! Branded Graphic THINK RESPONSIBLY!


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