A cure is needed to end an addictive cycle.
Story: Jim Richards
The number of statistics linking stress to disease is unbelievably high. Stress is related to every known chronic disease. Stress can so weaken the body and mind that it begins to facilitate the growth of harmful pathogens, leading to disease. It can also cause a mild, solvable problem to blossom into an incurable illness.
Most drugs prescribed for various stress-related problems do nothing for the underlying cause. In fact, they actually feed the problem. If people have inflammation in their knee causing mild pain and they take a pain reliever, they are masking the problem. This means they will continue to walk and exercise on a knee that needs treatment. Since the pain is masked, they usually will make the situation worse and cause the inflammation to increase until they need knee replacement.
When we mask symptoms of stress, whether physical or emotional, we do nothing to solve the underlying problem. Therefore, we continue to do and think the way that created stress. As our level of stress increases, our need for larger doses of medication or even additional medication grows. Just like the knee treatment that focused on symptoms but exacerbated the problem, those who take a symptom-based approach to anything seldom ever solve the root cause. Therefore, the problem usually gets worse!
Interestingly, some studies show that many of the drugs used to deal with stress and anxiety actually render the user a decreased level of empathy. With less empathy, we tend to become more abusive to those in our environment, which always leads to more conflict and stress. Thus, the cycle is exacerbated.
Once the mind and body adapt to function under stress, we lose our ability to function without stress. In fact, our body and brain become addicted to the “stress hormones,” and like any addiction, we don’t know how to live unless we feel stress. For example, the great majority of people with type A personalities do not feel they can be productive unless they’re under stress.
This can begin in school: you put off writing a paper until the last night and your emotions are raging, so you stay up all night overindulging in caffeine and you finish your paper just in time. So, you begin to think that it was, in fact, the stress that brought about your productivity. One only has to do this a few times to become addicted to this neurological process. They eventually will reach a place where they will create stress where there is none so they can feel creative. This same process happens in relationships and every other aspect of life.
When we remain in stress for long periods, we become sympathetic-nervous-system-dominant, which means we stay in fight-or-flight mode all the time. This can cause high blood pressure, acidic pH, sleep disorders, indigestion, and an endless list of emotional and physical health problems. Sympathetic dominance is the breeding ground for chronic disease.
The fight-or-flight mode of the sympathetic nervous system is pure survival mode. When we shift into this survival mode, nothing in our body or mind is working to keep us healthy; everything is driven by the need to survive.
In fight-or-flight mode, the blood no longer nourishes the organs; it flows to the extremities preparing us to instantly run or fight. Every minute in fight or flight is a minute your body is not nourishing or protecting the organs, fighting disease, or healing disease or infection. All of this tends to give rise to inflammation, which is just one more phase in the path of chronic disease and death.
I have known hundreds of people who after extended periods of stress began to manifest a deadly disease. Often, they are so confused, they reason, “I eat right, I exercise, I drink healthy water; how did this happen?” The answer is simple. The diseases that kill us are given birth during the times of stress, when we are in fight or flight. When we interfere with the natural healing process, we give sickness the opportunity it needs.
This should lead us all to answer the question, “Is the thing about which I’m stressing worth risking my life?” The answer is always an emphatic “No!” Therefore, all of us should surrender the “right” to be angry, jealous, fearful, unforgiving, and so overindulgent that we live in stress about anything or anyone!
Entering into fight or flight obviously begins a surge of hormones that cause one to feel stressed and overwhelmed. This stress not only produces a negative, health-destroying effect on all of our bodily functions, but it also takes a toll on our emotions.
Once we allow stress to grow to a degree that it is affecting our emotions, it now affects our relationships. Under stress, the way we interact with others changes. It may be the tone of voice, the expression of frustration, or the way we look at others while talking. When we consider that as much as 85 percent of all communication is nonverbal, we are intimidating, insulting, or provoking anger with the people we live with, work with, and love.
When we have reached a stage where stress is affecting our communication, we enter a syndrome of creating more external/relational stress, which creates more internal stress. That multiplies over and over again until we either implement the stress antidote or venture down the long dark path of destroying our health, relationships, income, and emotional stability.
The stress antidote is peace. One of the least-pursued emotional traits of the 21st century is probably peace. In my upcoming articles, I will help you discover the biological, emotional, and spiritual journey into a life of peace. I will share exercises that will give you the power to not only break free from stress but also break out of a lifestyle of stress. We will start with an exercise that will work within 15 minutes.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be medical advice.
About the writer → Jim Richards, Ph.D, Th.D, OMD, has pioneered faith-based programs in natural medicine and personal development. His bestselling books, audio programs, leadership training, conferences, and consulting have influenced millions of people all over the world to discover how to experience life at its best.