Originally published 9/16/2018
Like most people, I’ve always had a familiarity with stress and that basically it didn’t do the body good. And like most people, I equated stress with moments in my life when things felt overwhelming because so much was going on. In the past 6 years, however, I’ve not only studied what really goes on, but I have had personal experiences that demonstrate to me that stress is thee most critical factor in one’s life and health; today, more than ever. In addition, the stress response happens more often than we realize.Let’s begin with the basics about the physiology of stress. Stress is when the body biochemically and physiologically goes into a fight or flight response. Heart rate and blood pressure increases to provide increased blood flow to the extremities, and the adrenal glands begin to produce adrenalin and glucocorticoids. But wait, there’s more. While the body is instantly responding to the possibility of the need to fight or flight, it also tells all other functions to basically, “wait, not now.” So, digestion slows and cells stop repairing themselves, because this isn’t needed to fight or flight. Although when sustained, what the body does can cause fatigue, it’s what the body isn’t doing that eventually causes even more damage.
The fight or flight, or the stress response, was once an important part of survival. The key word here being “survival.” Today, however, with the exception of actual danger that doesn’t happen often for most, we are turning on that stress response for purely psychological reasons. As *Robert Sapolsky says, a researcher at Stamford University who studied the stress response for 30 years, “For humans, we turn on the stress response for purely “psychological states;” thinking about things. And so we’re doing it for non-physiological reasons and we’re doing it non-stop.”
*Robert Sapolsky, who was one of the researchers that was showcased in the “National Geographic Special: Stress-Portrait of a Killer Documentary (2008),” had spent 30 years following a troop of baboons in Africa. Each year, he’d spend 3 weeks studying their behavior and testing how their bodies were responding to stress. He chose baboons because they have the closest social structure to humans. What he observed was that there was definitely a difference between stress levels within the troop according to their position in the hierarchy. The alpha males had no stress, while the females had some stress, and the lesser or beta males were the most stressed. He observed that the reason for this was because the beta males were constantly being picked on. One could be drinking water at a stream, for example, and along comes the alpha male and hits or pushes him. So, there was this constant need to be alert to possibly being picked on at any given moment. In other words, they felt no control over what happened to them. The same was true of the females, but to a slightly lesser degree. Hence, other than the alpha male, all the other baboons were stressed because they felt no control over their environment.
You may be thinking, “Well, but these are baboons, not humans.” Ah, but then comes along a 40 year study in Britain done by *Sir Michael Marmot (also covered in the same documentary), who followed 28 thousand people that worked in a civil service department called White House. The study showed the same results. The lower the employee was in the hierarchy of this department, the higher their risk for heart disease and other diseases. The study was so extensive that they could practically predict who would get sick, just by their job position. Those in management positions rarely got sick, while their subordinates would often take sick days.
They realized that this was because those on the lower rung of the ladder, so to speak, felt less in control. Thankfully, this also allowed them to make some needed changes. They began having meetings amongst management and staff, allowing staff to have more input into their jobs so they could feel more in control. The results? Sick days decreased, and health increased. The key in both of these studies is this: when we don’t feel we have control over our lives, we feel stressed.
Now, let’s take it a step further. I mentioned 2 key words, survival and control. Today, survival is different than it was ages ago. We don’t necessarily have to worry about storing food for the winter, or making sure that we have plenty of wood to keep warm. Instead, we worry about whether we’re making enough money to eat and keep warm, is the car running well, will I get layed off from work or can I depend on this income? Add to that all the little things we are constantly thinking about regarding our social lives, our families, social media, what’s going on in the world around us. The list goes on and on, because today information and communication are only a finger over an icon, or a click away.
According to Joe Dispenza, in his book You Are the Placebo, “Fear, futility, anger, hostility, impatience, pessimism, competition, and worry, won’t signal the proper genes for better health. They actually do the opposite. They turn on the fight or flight nervous system and prepare your body for emergency. You’re now losing vital energy for healing.”
What this all tells us is this. What we “feel” about our survival, whether we just function or thrive in the world, goes a long way towards whether we experience the stress response. If we feel fear, futility, hostility, worry, impatience, pessimism, competition, or any other feelings of lack or a lack of control, our body is experiencing a stress response. Remember, it’s not just about what the body IS doing when stressed: it’s also about what the body Is NOT doing………..it’s not healing, it’s not digesting food well, and more. So, the longer you stress, the longer your body is basically saying, “Wait. Not now, I’ll heal later.”
Let’s take that “wait, not now, I’ll heal later,” and add days, months, or years to the equation. *Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, at the University of California, researched telomeres and was also featured in the documentary, “National Geographic: Stress - Portrait of a Killer.” Telomeres are a sort of cap that sits at the ends of our DNA strands (our chromosomes) that is an enzyme. This enzyme cap holds the strand together, keeping it from fraying and basically falling apart. So, if you were to imagine an extension ladder, and seeing a plastic cap over the two top ends and the two bottom ends, this would be similar to where the telomere sits on our chromosomes. What is known about the telomeres is that as we age, our telomeres shorten.
When someone is chronically stressed, it accelerates the shortening of the telomeres. In fact, according to Blackburn’s research, chronic stress shortens the telomeres 6 times faster than normal. So there is evidence that supports that we literally do physiologically age faster when chronically stressed.
*There’s great news though, in case the above starts to get you stressed. The body also produces an enzyme called telomerase that repairs the loss of the telomeres. That is what’s so amazing about our body; it already has the antidote. However, the stress has to be addressed and the body needs to move into a state of relaxation. As Dr. Lissa Rankin has often said in her Tedtalks, the moment our body relaxes, it begins to heal (See recommended Videos). So, that “wait, not now, I’ll heal later,” changes to “healing now.”
Now you may understand why, according to WebMD, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” As our body is aging faster and not repairing itself, a whole slew of symptoms and diseases begin to manifest.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take it a little further into the subtle realms of energy, where the body can become stressed due to what it is experiencing that we can’t see or hear, or otherwise witness. All of what I mentioned earlier, from technology to food, all has its own energetic signature, meaning each vibrates at its own frequency, and when that frequency causes dissonance when introduced to our body, the communication between all parts of our body decreases. Remember, what they’re discovering is that communication between cells is vital to health and anything that interrupts that, can, in the long run, manifest dis-ease.
So if our body is experiencing a Wi-Fi signal, for example, this is stressing the body in a way that we are not consciously aware of because we can’t witness what it’s doing to us. This is actually something that is commonly known to happen to people who live near a high voltage electrical tower. These towers emit a high magnetic field that the body feels, and over time can adversely affect it. This then is what I would call an “unseen stressor.” If you recall from the first part of this course, that we create thought forms when directed at people, this also has the potential to be an “unseen stressor” for the recipient.
From the external environment, to our internal environment, all these factors can potentially play a role in how we feel and how much energy we have. This is why the first part of this course is to teach you how to clear your energy, because more often than not, a lot of what we deal with energetically is what we are carrying with us: our energetic baggage, so to speak, from all the encounters and experiences we’ve had to date, seen and unseen. This alone is a large component as to why we may feel lethargic, unmotivated, have weakened immune systems, and more, because basically our energy is tied up in dealing with that energetic baggage. So our own energy gets repressed and/or distorted. This is also why each part of this course is meant to not only help you to recognize all the aspects of energy and your lifestyle, but to be more aware and have ways to transform it.
What are some ways that you reduce stress in your life? Leave a message and share some of your stress reducing techinques.
*Source: National Geographic: Stress - Portrait of a Killer, 2008, 20th Century Fox, DVD.
© Judy Garrido/Innately Resourceful LLC