Stress

The human mind-body has developed ways of attempting to deal with the stressors of everyday life. If the individual is successful, the internal environment is able to maintain homeostasis (harmony, balance). But if the cumulative effects of stress are too great, unusual, or long lasting, then a series of biochemical and other changes can occur. In 1956 Hans Selye defined these changes in what he referred to as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).

He identified 3 stages to GAS:

  1. Alarm reaction, or the fear/fight/flight response, in which the hypothalamus triggers the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal medulla, and adrenalin and cortisol are secreted into general circulation.
  2. Resistance reaction, in which the hormonal response diminishes, and only appropriate organs “battle” the stressor.
  3. Exhaustion, which reflects prolonged stress, in which organs and systems “wear out”; the mind and body now “draft” other organs and systems, initiating further adrenalin and cortisol secretion (often adrenal cortex becomes enlarged); most organs and systems are affected and harmed; there is shrinkage of the thymus, spleen, lymph nodes; there is a decrease in white blood cell production, sex hormones decline; blood pressure increases. All of this leads to immune system illnesses, chronic hypertension, impaired mental function, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Nearly every disease we know can be aggravated or even caused by stress or destructive emotions. We have discussed stress-related hypoglycemia, headaches, colitis, ulcers, enuresis, fatigue, high blood pressure, and a whole host of other conditions.


Treatment

Stress management has to do with:

a. identifying stressors, both external and internal (physiological)

b. minimizing exposure to stressors

c. effectively managing one’s response to stressors (i.e., coping skills and “relaxation response”)

How to Take Control: (loss of control drastically increases stress)
  • Know when you are really out of control, not just feeling as though you are (e.g., don’t jump to negative conclusions, don’t overgeneralize, don’t just go along with others just to fit in).
  • Realize that although you can’t always control of what happens, you can always control how you respond or react (e.g., deep breathing, sit down and think first, etc.).
  • Make lists of your goals (for today/this week/this month/this year. Prioritize, do the difficult first). Make it your number one goal to be happy.
  • Expect much, but be realistic; goals are challenges, not stressors.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Internalize goals (i.e., feeling rich vs. being rich).
  • Make work your play, in other words, you either love your work, or you should find something else to do.
  • Carefully consider what other people in your life expect of you. Are these expectations realistic? Are they in accord with your goals?
  • Learn to say no. Be true to yourself.
  • Simplify your life. Don’t be a slave to technology.
How Support Vanquishes Stress

Research shows all the time that having close personal relationships, friends and family, church, a sense of community, and membership in a club, will mean a sense of self. Feeling part of a group is a prerequisite for managing stress and for good health. The Roseto Study, based on a small New Jersey town with a close-knit population of mostly Italian-Americans who adhered to old-country traditions and customs, demonstrated that living within this supportive network of camaraderie and community led to remarkably good health. In all other ways, the townsfolk demonstrated statistical normality with the control groups, that is to say, they did not practice conventionally healthy lifestyles (for example, they ate lots of red meat, had normal rates of obesity and high blood pressure, and were typical in drinking and smoking habits).

The significance of this study was that the Rosetta population demonstrated extraordinarily low rates of stress-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease and ulcers. The study also showed that when individuals moved away from this family community, this supportive network, they quickly succumbed to the signs of stress.

Here are some things to consider, to help one reduce the negative impacts of stress in one’s daily life.

  • Enjoy the human touch: hugs, massages.
  • Ensure you have someone you can talk to about anything.
  • Have an animal pet; pets love their owners unconditionally.
  • Loving others increases one’s perception of being loved (altruistic egoism); love stops stress; love heals.
Stress Release: The Regenerating Power

Don’t bottle it up. Here are four ways of releasing stress (outlets):

  • Physical action (burn it off): With especially aggressive exercise: power walking, martial arts, vigorous gardening.
  • Verbal releasing: Talking, crying, laughing, yelling, writing (not at someone necessarily). Note: The composition of tears varies; for example, emotional tears can include adrenalin, endorphins, and neurotransmitters.
  • Displacement: Take out frustrations on a pillow (scream, hit, etc.).
  • Meditation: This is perhaps the best possible way, a so-called magic bullet to reduce stress. The spaces between the thoughts feel timeless and help one regain perspective on one’s life.

How to Meditate

For beginners
  • Find a quiet place, no interruptions.
  • Allow 10 to 20 minutes, two times per day, preferably before breakfast and before dinner.
  • Sit comfortably and consciously, close eyes, be calm, breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Stop internal dialogue (i.e., stop thinking in words, don’t plan, don’t recall).
  • (To help) repeat a mantra, e.g., “peace,” “love,” “om nama shiva,” “shalom.”
  • Don’t worry if thoughts intrude (they will); allow them, dismiss them, repeat the mantra, and breathe.
  • When finished, sit quietly for a few minutes, and merge with normality.
More advanced (for a sensation of continuous energy flow)
  • Sit comfortably, cross legged, spine straight, hands together (right resting in left) palms up, thumbs touching in lap.
  • Close eyes; visualize all tension leaving body.
  • Focus all mental energy on the pineal gland (the third eye).
  • Silently chant.
  • Continue for ten minutes (ignore distractions).
  • Inhale deeply; hold for fifteen seconds; exhale and relax.

There are other ways to help one let go of emotional stress, such as autogenic training: lie down in quietness; become passive; close your eyes; feel heavy in arms, legs; imagine limbs are becoming warm; imagine heart beat slowing; concentrate on deep breathing; imagine forehead becoming cool.

You can also learn how to progressively relax individual muscles. Lying down, start with a conscious movement of the toes and feet, then relax the toes and feet; move onto the calf muscles, knees, thighs, hips and so on, each time consciously moving then relaxing each muscle group. Cover every area of the body, front and back, and the face and head muscles. See also the stress release exercise under Hypertension.

There are many other forms of stress management, such as prayer, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis.

The physiological beneficial effects of these types of meditation and relaxation are:

  • A slowed metabolism—a hypometabolic state (only other way to get it is through sleep or hibernation)
  • Decrease in blood lactate
  • Decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate
  • Melatonin is increased, and there is a decline in the production and circulation of the stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol.

Therapeutic Agents

No list of supplements will cure stress if the cause is primarily emotional or due to external conditions. The following list of supplements will help deal with the physiologic and biochemical results of stress and, if taken in conjunction with efforts to deal with the cause of stress, will be instrumental in the overall therapy.

Some cases of stress are solely due to nutritional deficiencies or excesses, and these will be corrected by dietary changes and nutritional supplementation alone. For instance, animal products are naturally high in phospholipids, arachidonic acid, and other potent mediators of physiologic stress and inflammation. During the slaughtering process, animals are subjected to the stress of being transported off to the abattoirs, standing in lines, waiting—with the sounds and smells of death all around them—for their execution. The organs of these animals (mainly the adrenal glands) secrete large amounts of stress hormones, notably adrenalin and cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormones) into their bloodstream and tissues. Elevated levels of stress hormones remain present in the meat eaten by us. They act as stressors in our bodies. A largely vegetarian diet, perhaps with some fish, is recommended for those who suffer from stress. Caffeine in excess adds to biochemical stress, as does excessive cigarette smoking.

When one is stressed, how one eats is just as important as what one eats. When stress is prolonged, as for people who are constantly “stressed out,” digestion becomes chronically very poor. We start to miss out on vital nutrients; we become malnourished, which, in turn, creates further physiological stress, and disease sets in. Fasting or a regime of water, juices, and broth during times of stress are extremely beneficial, even curative in their effects.

Have you ever noticed an animal that is stressed? It will not eat; it drinks lots of water, and it tries to escape the stress and rest. We seem to have lost the wisdom of nature; when we keep on eating when stressed, and the problems only become exacerbated. Digestion requires a lot of energy, and when the energy is focused elsewhere, food (especially lots of food or complex foods) is impartially digested. We can become constipated or diarrheic, causing toxins to build up in our systems, causing more complicated problems than we would have had if we had simply not eaten and had dealt with the stressors properly.

So we need to honor the parasympathetic nervous system, the system of rest and digestion, not merely at meal times, but in more general terms. We need to ensure we have a balanced lifestyle, one that adequately deals with stress so that it does not impact on our digestive system, thus creating disease. When stressed, we recommend eating slowly—grazing—and choosing simple foods that are easily digested, such as salad, cooked vegetables, and fresh fruit.

Vitamins and Minerals — Primary

Vitamin B complex*: 50 mg two to three times per day.

Vitamin C*: To bowel tolerance.

Magnesium*: 600 to 2,000 mg per day

Vitamins and Minerals — Secondary

Vitamin A: 25,000 to 100,000 IU per day.

Pantothenic acid: 25 to 50 mg one to two times per day.

Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU per day.

Calcium: 800 to 1,000 mg per day.

Potassium: To 8 mg per day.

Zinc: 25 to 50 mg one to two times per day.

Others — Primary

Probiotics*

Others — Secondary

Essential fatty acids, especially flaxseed oil

Oil of evening primrose

Hypothalamus: 1 tablet two to three times per day.

Raw adrenal tablets: 1 tablet two to three times per day.

Raw thymus tablets: 1 to 3 tablets two to four times per day.

Botanicals — Primary

Astragalus (A. membranaceus)*: Adaptogenic.

Ginseng (Panax spp.) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus spp.)*: Adaptogenic, adrenal support, antistress.

Withania (W. somnifera)*

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)*

Schisandra (S. chinensis)*

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)*

Nervine sedatives and tonics such as Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Hops (Humulus lupulus), Kava-kava (Piper methysticum), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Bacopa (B. monniera), Zizyphus (Z. spinosa)*

Botanicals — Secondary

Consider also herbs as for Behavioral Disorders, Depression, and Stress; Insomnia; and Hypertension

Therapeutic Suggestion

Stressed out people often “live on their adrenals.” It is important to support the adrenal glands in times of stress, and some tips from our section on Digestive Disorders will help. Above all, reduce your coffee intake slowly over a week or two, to two cups a day at most.

Excerpts from Better Health Through Natural Healing 3rd Edition

First published in 1985, Better Health through Natural Healing has become one of the most successful and authoritative resources of its type, with more than 1.5 million copies sold worldwide. Since the original publication of this comprehensive guide, alternative therapies have become more and more accepted by the mainstream, and patients and practitioners of the wider medical community are embracing complementary medicine as an effective treatment option for a range of medical conditions.

The book is available at the West End clinic, exclusively in Australia.


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