We have all heard people say that, but did you have any idea how true it is? I can't help but wonder what is going on with our world as far as stress is concerned. Our stress levels (especially in America) are at an all time high. I am continually asking patients what their stress level is and what they are doing to eliminate it. It is important to understand that we now know that stress is the underlying cause of over 80% of all disease. Why? When your body is under stress, the nervous system is working as it did when we were being chased by tigers as cavemen. This response was meant to last only a few minutes and now we are using it all day long in many cases! For some reason, our primitive brain has not caught up with the evolution of the times.
I asked an expert (Don Joseph Goewey) just the other day why he thought our primitive brains hadn't caught up with the rest of us and he said he had asked the same question to a panel of brain researchers. They told him it'll probably take at least another 10,000 years to see any change there. So, we're stuck. We are stuck with a brain that thinks we are running from tigers, just because we are walking into the workplace. That puts us into the 'flight or fight' mode (the sympathetic stress response of the nervous system). Because we are in that mode more often than not, our entire immune system is lowered and we are left open to virus, bacteria, parasites, and fungus. Top that off with a constant exposure to chemicals and heavy metals as well as the 'products' we call food, and we are headed for sure disaster.
So the REASON I ask my patients how their stress level is and what they are doing about it, is because if stress leads to nearly all illness and disease, we must have ways bring our brain and thus our bodies out of the flight or fight stress response and back into the parasympathetic mode of 'rest and digest'. Easier said than done? Maybe at first, but I'm telling you, all it takes is a bit of stick-to-it-ive-ness (as my lovely mother used to say), and a clear picture of the end goal. Can you imagine a life of ease, peace, and happiness? It is our birthright actually. We just forgot somewhere along the line. So here's your chance to get back to it.
I will outline here some very easy steps and if you DO THEM, you will notice your stress level drastically decreasing and your life getting better and better every day.
1. Belly breathe. You've heard it before, this time do it. It's still even hard for me to remember at times! When you take a breath, your belly should expand, not your chest. When you're breathing up in your chest, you are in fight or flight stress mode. Merely bringing it back down to the belly instantly drops the stress and brings you back to the parasympathetic healing mode.
2. Retrain your brain. I learned about gaba fibers last week. These brain/nervous system fibers get too thin causing the stress response to take effect in your body very quickly. We need to thicken these fibers so that when there is some real stress, your body can handle it well and not shut down vital supply to the organ systems. To do this we use something Don Joseph calls the 'clear button'. When you feel the stress response coming on (muscles tightening, breathing in your chest, mind racing…), press with your finger in the middle of the palm of one hand, inhale as you picture the number 1 in a certain color. Release the air, and inhale picturing the number 2 in another color. Release and picture a 3 in yet another color. Release completely. It is ok to do this technique a couple times if needed. But the point is to do it within your 90 second window. After the stress response hits, you have 90 seconds before the hormones and chemicals are released into your blood to cause problems.
3. Exercise. Do I really need to explain this? Release those stress busting endorphins by doing a form of exercise that YOU love.
4. Enjoy a moment of silence. Meditation, prayer, or just peace and quiet for several minutes daily is miraculous when it comes to keeping your stress level down and your body functioning in peace. Alright, the rest is up to you!