Is Stress Killing Us?
Hello lovely you,
I can’t believe it is June already. My beautiful garden has come alive and I find myself drawn to it more with each passing day. Being close to the beauty and honesty of nature has such a profound healing effect on our minds, hearts and bodies. Nothing eradicates stress quite like spending quiet time among the birds and trees and flowers.
How do you deal with the stress in your life? Or do you ignore it and just stuff it down?
I know many, many people who believe that stress is simply a part of life and there isn’t much you can do about it. Well, I agree with part of that but disagree with most of it.
Yes, unless you are a monk living in a monastery high atop the Himalayas or extremely rich and living somewhere deserted in the Caribbean, you no doubt deal with your fair share of stress. And this stress, if not dealt with properly, has the ability to make you very, very sick.
In fact, even if you are eating the healthiest, cleanest diet on the planet, exercising every day, taking all of the right supplements and there is NO incidences of cancer in your entire family, if you have major stress in your life, you are on the fast track to developing cancer. That’s how unhealthy stress is.
I recently read a blog post by Dr. Lissa Rankin on this very topic. She was talking about doing research for one of her books and she learned that stress and emotions are what really make us sick. She mentioned a study that found that lonely people have twice the amount of heart disease than people who are part of a loving, supportive community and that loneliness was a greater risk factor for developing disease than even smoking and not exercising.
What really struck me about that blog post was when she said that she had a lightbulb moment about her own patients. She is an integrative medicine doctor in Marin County, California. This is a very affluent, well-to-do area where, as she puts it, people are health nuts eating vegan diets, juicing, workout and taking daily supplements. Yet these same people were some of the sickest she’d ever met!
That’s when she realized that stress and our emotions have more to do with whether or not we get sick than ANYTHING else. THIS is the power of the mind over the body. Because the mind is so powerful, we’ve got to make sure our minds and emotions are on our side.
How Stress Makes Us Sick
Our bodies were designed to be healthy. We have an internal self-repair process that has been put there by a higher power to keep us well. If we break a bone, a doctor may set the bone, but that doctor doesn’t heal it, our bodies do that. When we get a cut, we may get stitches, but our own bodies heal that cut. This natural self-repair mechanism is even powerful enough to fight infections and yes, even kill cancer cells.
So why are so many people getting cancer? Why are so many people who are vegan and juice and workout and get 8 hours of sleep still getting cancer? Is stress killing us?
You see, our bodies have what is called an automatic nervous system, and this system has two major operating systems. One is called the sympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for producing the body’s stress response, also known as our “fight or flight” response. When our ancestors saw a Sabre Tooth Tiger, it was the sympathetic nervous system that injected their bodies with stress hormones so their hearts could pump faster, their muscles work harder, and they could run like hell to get to safety.
The other system is called the parasympathetic nervous system, and it is responsible for producing the body’s relaxation response, which is also referred to as the “rest and digest” response. So we have “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” modes inside of us. Our natural state is to be in “rest and digest” mode, and every once in a while when there is a danger in our environment we switch over to the “fight or flight” mode.
Is Stress Killing Us?
But modern man is living a much different life than his early ancestors who had to run from wild animals every once in a while. Modern man, and woman deals with high-interest mortgage payments, awful commutes in dangerous rush hour traffic, negative news coming at them 24/7, and on and on. In other words, modern man spends the majority of his time in “fight or flight” mode and only a little time in “rest and digest” mode. It’s the complete opposite lifestyle than we were designed to live.
The thing is THE BODY CAN ONLY HEAL AND REPAIR ITSELF WHEN IT IS IN “REST AND DIGEST” MODE. We cannot get well when stressed, only when we are relaxed. That is simply a natural law of how our bodies were designed.
You MUST Stop the Stress in Your Life
Not only do many people simply think they have to just accept and live with stress, but there are those that see it somehow as a badge of honor. In this country and many parts of the West, we simply have a VERY unhealthy opinion of stress.
Stress is NOT the same thing as running around all day trying to get all of your errands done or burning the candle at both ends to earn your degree while working full time. That’s not the stress I am talking about. Stress is being in a toxic relationship, struggling with finances, being incredibly lonely and isolated, and even feeling like you have no clue what your life’s purpose is. THAT is stress and THAT is killing many of us.
The bottom line is, your body and mind are very much connected, and no matter how healthy you try to keep your body through physical means (diet, exercise, supplements), if your mind (and heart) is toxic, then you are at risk of developing disease.
It’s time to actually deal with the stress in your life. If not now, when? First, what changes can you make? Are there relationships that are toxic and need to end? Do you need to move closer to your job? Do you need to start being more social and meeting people to form a tribe with?
Second, how can you deal with the stress that won’t easily go away? Are you meditating? Listening to music? Spending time in nature?
I hope you really pay attention to this blog post. Stress is the number one killer. What you think and feel all day long every day has more to do with your physical health than anything else.
Please take the time to think about what is stressing you and what you can do to get rid of as much of it as you can, and how you can deal with the rest.
Sending you love, light and a little rest and relaxation on this fine Tuesday.