Stressful situations occur every day and happen to everyone. It is your ability to cope with these situations that determines what, if any, long-term effects stress will have on you.
When I talk about eliminating stress, I am referring to the stored stress that remains within your body. You could never eliminate stressful situations from happening day to day, but you can learn how to release the stress stored in your body and reduce and eliminate the effects of stress. You can also learn techniques to better manage stressful events as they occur to minimize the effects of stress in your body.
What is stress?
Stress can be defined as an experience or condition that causes physical, emotional and/or mental disruption. Stress is usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, increased muscle tension, and irritability.
How does stress affect the body?
Typically described as the “fight or flight response,” the sudden release of adrenalin and other hormones into the blood stream triggers a systemic cascade of events. Your pulse speeds up, your blood pressure rises, stomach acid production is increased and fat metabolism is increased.
Hormones called catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine) are released into the blood stream causing the increase in heart rate and blood pressure. These hormones also mobilize stored fat from cells and dump it into the blood stream. This increases the risk for stroke or heart attack.
These hormones also cause a rise in blood sugar leading to an increased risk of diabetes.
Circulation is diverted to the brain and extremities for heightened awareness and muscle response to the perceived danger at hand. This slows the digestive process and the elimination of waste while at the same time increasing production of stomach acid leading to increased risk for irritable bowel syndrome and possible ulceration. Peptic ulcers may occur with the presence of a specific bacteria.
The rapid release of cortisol suppresses the body’s immune system weakening its resistance. Extended periods spent in stressful life situations can leave you vulnerable to illness and disease.
In a state of “fight or flight,” typically the body would be involved in a period of intense physical activity which would utilize these hormones and then expel them from the body. This does not regularly occur in today’s urban society which does not promote a physical lifestyle.
What are the long-term effects of stress on the body?
Without consistent regular release from the body, these “stress” hormones remain at elevated levels in the body leading to feelings of anxiety, jitteriness, increased tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, and feelings of inability to cope with day-to-day situations.
The consequence of chronically elevated stress hormones is destructive to your health. Over time the following effects may become manifest in the body: impaired thyroid function, increased insulin resistance and impaired pancreatic function, decreased sex drive and function, increased hypertension, loss of bone mineralization, increased fatty deposits in the abdominal area.
This means that you are at direct increased risk for thyroid problems. Some common symptoms of thyroid disease (either hyper- or hypo-) are extreme weight gain or extreme weight loss, depression, decreased overall energy, aches and pains in muscles and joints, hair can become coarse, dry and brittle, and fall out easily. Skin can become thick and scaly, or fragile and thin. You could have chronic constipation or chronic diarrhea. You may feel tired all the time having no energy. You may have insomnia, anxiety, or depression.
Increased hypertension and risk for heart disease can lead to heart attack, irregular heart beat, stroke. Some symptoms of various types of heart disease are: shortness of breath, weakness, dizziness, nausea, sweating, pain or heaviness in the chest, loss of energy and feeling very tired all the time.
Increased insulin resistance, decreased pancreatic function and abdominal obesity lead to the increased risk of diabetes with its many symptoms that include nerve damage, kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes, poor circulation, skin degradation and ulceration, and blindness.
Decreased bone mineralization leads to increased risk of bone fractures and bone shattering, impairing your overall daily lifestyle.
In general, you may also experience increased head aches, migraines, neck and/or shoulder pain, stomach pain, digestive problems, insomnia, skin problems, joint pain, muscle pain, burning sensations, and even cancer.
These are just some of the many ways that elevated levels of stress hormones remaining in your body for prolonged periods of time can be destructive and debilitating to your health.
Stress in the long run also speeds up the “aging” process by speeding up cell decay and death.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, you have stored stress in your body that is crying out to be released.
(If you have an inherited disease, release of stress can help in the management and control of symptoms.)
What about good stress?
Good stress, often called “eustress” can have both positive effects and negative effects on the body. Eustress can be helpful in relieving the negative effects of stress. Good stress can come in many forms. It can be an activity you like such as hiking, biking, exertive walking, swimming, tennis, golf, soccer. Along with this type of physical activity other chemicals are released into the body and can remain stored as stress too. This would be good stress leading to bad stress in the long term.
Eustress can be associated with “over” feelings and emotions such as “overjoyed,” “over-exhilarated,” “over-eager,” “over-emotional,” “over-exuberant,” and “over-sensitive.”
When your body is in this state of “over” stimulation, it is the polar opposite of the effects of negative stress. Emotions are vibrational. “Over” emotions emit super high vibrational frequencies. Stress emotions or low energy emotions such as anxiety, sadness, depression, and lack of joy emit super low vibrational frequencies.
If you are a follower of The Law of Attraction, you have probably heard that you will attract like vibrations. Your health can impact your ability to make The Law of Attraction work for you. You might be struggling with the concept of raising your vibrational energy. You can start by clearing your body of stored stress. As you release stored stress, you will begin to feel lighter, happier, more content, better able to cope, more optimistic.
Some emotions associated with negative stress and low energy are: doubt, fear, anxiety, resentment, anger, guilt and depression. Some emotions associated with a state of equilibrium of are: peace, joy, happiness, contentment, love and hope.
Negative stress causes cellular breakdown, decay and death. Eustress in excess is like a nuclear meltdown in the body.
Here is an example of how an excess of eustress can be harmful. You are in a state of being very excited. The energy heats up the heart first. The excess energy then travels to the brain. Once this excess energy is in the brain, it is not easily released because the channel back to the torso is very narrow. The excess energy has nowhere to go and like an overfilled balloon and energy explosion occurs resulting in stroke.
Ancient Buddhist and Chinese philosophies teach that moderation is best in all things, even in our emotions and in our ability to heal ourselves.
“In governing the people and in worshipping heaven nothing surpasses moderation. To value moderation, one must form the habit early. Its early acquisition will result in storing and accumulating vitality. By storing and accumulating vitality nothing is impossible.
If nothing is impossible then one is ignorant of his limits. If one does not know his limitations, one may possess the state. He who possesses moderation is thereby lasting and enduring. It is like having deep roots and a strong stem. This is of long life and enduring insight the Tao (way).”
Lao Tzu’s Tao and Wu Wei: Tao Te Ching 59 To Keep Tao
What can be done to de-stress the body?
Some activities that can be done to release stored stress from the body are: body massage, meditation, and yoga. Slow, gentle walking along with visualization and deep breathing will also release stored negative stress from the body. Listening to calming music or “environmental” music along with visualization will release stored stress from the body.
Visualization along with other de-stressing activities is very powerful at releasing stress. It restores the body to a state of equilibrium from which the body can begin its own natural restorative healing process. Thought is energy. Visualization is focused thought. It has been proven in quantum physics that focused thought creates matter. Visualization creates chemical activities in the body. These chemical activities produce the right kind of energy to help the body repair itself and help to open blockages.
Laughter is indeed “the best” medicine. Humor therapy is being studied in the medical field. Humor therapy, specifically laughter, has been shown to have preventive and healing effects on the body. Laughter activates certain immune system responses in the body that actually fight the effects of stored stress by reducing elevated “stress” hormone levels. One study concluded that laughter has beneficial health effects for wellness and humor therapy was an appropriate complementary therapy to whole-person integrative medical therapies.
So, the next time you feel like crying, laugh instead. Laugh from deep within. Try to find the polar opposite expression of what you are feeling. If you are thinking about the loss of a loved one, think of something funny that person would have done or what they would have wanted you to remember about them, and find happiness in that.
“The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that’s laughter. The moment it arises, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
— Mark Twain
Get In The Flow – The Return to Universal Energy
Stored stress in the body leads to blockages of your vital life force, your Qi (or prana). When blockages occur, symptoms of distress or dis-ease occur. The symptoms are there to tell you that your vital life energy isn’t flowing properly. Your vital life energy is like the air and the ocean. It seeks to flow, to circulate, to rejoin the greater body and return to the smaller lake and stream. When it is blocked, it cannot flow. Your vital life energy keeps you centered and focused on the greater purpose of life. When you suffer energy blocks, your focus becomes very narrow. You become centered on the problem caused by the energy block and lose sight of the greater picture, even of your life purpose.
It is vital to your life overall to learn to release the energy blocks, to let your vital life force flow back out to the Universe and back again to you, to remain on purpose in your life and realize the full potential of who you are, not only for you but for all of creation. We all have a greater purpose above our immediate self. We can only fulfill it when we are connected to Universal Energy.