Can stress and anxiety cause cancer?
When we talk about stress, we tend to talk about only one flavor of it, the bad yucky kind. I mean, how often do you hear someone say, “Gee, I am so stressed right now and I feel amazing!!” Not often. So it’s clear why we all assume there is only the bad kind of stress.
But there actually is a good kind of stress. And if we listen to it, it can help us avoid the bad kind of stress. But if we don’t listen to it, it can (and generally will) turn into the bad kind of stress. And then we face the possibility of becoming depressed and sick.
When we feel tired, frustrated or irritated about something going on in our lives, we need to start listening to those emotions. These emotions act as guides and can help us recognize that something is off, not right, or unhealthy for us. This can be a situation at work, at home, or with a neighbor etc.
I wasn’t always good at listening to my good stress. Before my cancer diagnosis, I often felt like a victim of life. I assumed that I had no control and that I wasn’t responsible for what showed up in my life. Life was crappy sometimes, I told myself, and our job while on the planet was to “just deal with it.
Boy was I wrong! I now know the importance of listening to my inner emotional voices, whatever they may want to tell me.
Has Your Life’s Engine Light Gone On?
You’ve got to think of stress like the sounds your car makes. Some car owners start to hear a weird rattle noise coming from somewhere under the hood on their way to work. The engine light’s not on and the car still drives, so they choose to ignore the rattle.
The rattle eventually turns into a grinding noise, but they ignore that as well because, hey, the car is still driving.
Finally, one day, the car won’t start and they think this breakdown came out of nowhere and they throw an absolute fit!! Oh the injustice of this breakdown!!
Had they brought their car into the shop when it was only making a little rattle noise, they would have been able to fix the problem and prolonged the life and health of their car.
Good stress is like that little rattle. You’ve got to listen to it so you can avoid the grinding and eventual complete breakdown of your mental and physical health.
How to Turn Bad Stress into Good Stress or even No Stress
Many of us have the habit of perceiving our lives in a negative way. Are you guilty of seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full? If so, it’s important to be honest with yourself and work on shifting your perception of the world and events around you.
The truth is, there will always be heavy traffic and long commutes, noisy neighbors, overbearing bosses and spouses or partners who are toxic and end up NOT having our best interests at heart. The first step is to remove as many of the obvious stressors in your life as you can.
For the rest of the stress that remains, we must find different ways to think about it. This is really important because if you don’t perceive something as a threat, your body won’t respond by producing and releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. I’ve written about these hormones before – they absolutely wreak havoc on our bodies and our health when we are chronically stressed.
So how do you shift your perception of stressful situations?
There are a few different things I do to help me make an attitude adjustment:
1) See the lesson– Is there something you can learn from the stressful situation? Is there something about yourself you’ve just discovered? Will the knowledge you’ve gained help you fulfill your calling or potential in some way?
2) What are the hidden benefits/silver lining? – A friend of mine was injured at work a few months ago. At first she was angry the whole thing had happened. Not only was she in pain, but workman’s comp was only covering some of her missed pay, so she felt some financial stress not bringing home her usual paychecks. But then she realized she could finally spend time at home with her beloved dog while she recovered. She loved this dog more than just about anything and never got to spend much time with him. He had gotten quite old and my friend felt guilt every day leaving for work.
A couple of months after my friend finally went back to work, her beloved companion died. She was so sad, but also so grateful that she could spend so much quality one-on-one time with him before he passed. Her injury and time off of work turned out to be a little miracle in disguise. Try and find those little miracles every day.
3) Rely on your own strength – When you start to feel stress, don’t fall victim to it, find the strength and resources within yourself to beat it. Also, find any beliefs or behavioral patterns of yours that may have created the situation in the first place. Our thoughts and beliefs truly do create our lives! I don’t believe this, I KNOW this to be true.
It will take some practice making these mental shifts, but the more you do it, the more automatic these types of responses will become.
Life is always going to throw us some stress, that is a fact we have to accept. But we don’t have to accept all of the stress that comes into our lives. We don’t have to get so stressful that it causes anxiety and makes us sick. Some of the stress we can get rid of, and some of it we can’t, but we can shift our thinking to see the situation in a completely different way.
With love & gratitude,