What is Stress?
Stress is a state of emotional strain or anxiety that results from our innate ‘fight or flight’ response. While stress is not always bad, after all, sometimes you need to move into action if you are threatened with danger, prolonged stress can have very negative consequences on your health. Continuously keeping your body in this ‘high stress’ mode is extremely dangerous.
Physical Effects of Chronic Stress
Since the human body is not capable of classifying kinds of stress separately, it reacts to every kind of stress in the same way as it would to extreme situations. A work deadline, piled up bills, or even an argument with a friend all present a chemical response in the body that is very similar to a threatening event.
Stress disrupts almost all systems in your body, including the immune system, digestive system and even the reproductive system, no part of your body remains unaffected. Stress is responsible for nearly 90% of all kinds of illnesses – yikes! Stress increases chances of a heart attack, quickens the aging process and can lead to strokes. In extreme cases, it can rewire your brain, rendering you highly vulnerable to mental problems such as anxiety and depression. Most commonly, individuals under stress experience sleep problems, weight problems, memory issues, reproductive complexities and autoimmune diseases.
When stress is prolonged, it becomes chronic, which is very harmful to your body. In response to this, levels of cortisol rise in your body, as do your corticosteroids. Think of the gas pedal in your car being stuck on full throttle – eventually your car will crash! Maintaining levels of cortisol is extremely crucial since an excess of cortisol has adverse health effects. Under chronic stress, cortisol levels remain consistently high in the blood. When this happens the body develops “resistance” to cortisol. In turn this prevents cortisol’s proper functioning. Instead of being used for ‘fight or flight’, cortisol adversely affects the body’s cells. This situation can lead to a breakdown of body tissue which in turn can lead to health issues such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.
For example, lymphocytes are an essential part of immune system; they kill disease causing bacteria and bugs. Cortisol suppresses lymphocytes and prolonged heightened cortisol markedly suppresses the immune system. With lowered lymphocytes the body is significantly vulnerable to diseases and infections.
Stress is real and a part of our lives; however, it need not be our enemy! There are several ways you can manage and master stress. Let’s look at a few options.
All it takes is a few minutes daily and it has a powerful effect on your subconscious mind. You simply need to close your eyes, lean straight with both feet on the floor and read out a positive statement to help you feel at ease. One of our favorites is ‘Breath of Christ’. Breathe deeply while you do this and it will yield exceptional results towards the peace of mind. Meditation has been proven to reduce cortisol and release calming neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Spending some quality time with others has been proven to reduce stress. Having light conversations and spending happy times with your social circle is a great source to release tension. This includes attending parties and having frequent get togethers.
In addition, practicing gratitude and thankfulness are another great ways to overcome negative thoughts and create a subconscious mind that is congruent with happiness and peace. Attending daily Mass, practicing contemplative prayer, and participating in prayer groups or Bible studies are great sources of respite.
We have several meditations called ‘Fasting of the Mind” we invite you to experience them here: Fasting of the Mind.