Stress is the Enemy of Good Health

In his book, Spontaneous Healing, Doctor Andrew Weil points out that an illness should be assumed stress-related until proven otherwise. Stress may not be the primary cause of your illness but can certainly aggravate your symptoms. Stress reduction should be one of the first things you look into when seeking relief from an illness.

You may not think that you are stressed. The insidious thing about stress is that it can slowly build up without you realizing it. Remember my revelation about how much stress I was feeling right around the time my first child was born? I insisted that I was stress-free, but there were a lot of stress-inducing influences in my life that I hadn’t considered. If you do not think you are affected by stress, choose a random time of day to ask yourself, “Am I relaxed?” You may find yourself clenching your fists or gritting your teeth. Are the muscles in your body tighter than they need to be? Do you find yourself snapping at friends or family only to regret it later? Has your dentist prescribed a night guard for you because you are grinding your teeth in your sleep? Do you constantly consume bottles of antacid? Do you wake up in the morning just as tired as when you went to bed? Because mild constant stress is so common, we often accept that state as “normal.” We just do not realize how damaging it is.

Your body responds to stress by releasing cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. In small amounts, this hormone does no damage. It can actually help the body respond to new stress. When cortisol is produced in excess, day after day, as a result of constant, on-going stress, it can be very harmful. High levels of cortisol over a long time can lead to such problems as osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes, insulin resistance and damage to the gastrointestinal tract. In Brain Longevity, Doctor Dharma Singh Khalsa states that chronic exposure of the brain to high levels of cortisol is a leading cause of brain degeneration during aging.

For those curious about your real stress level, you can follow this link to the Holmes Rahe stress inventory. This is a list of life-affecting events like the death of a family member, divorce or losing your job. There are even less stressful events like school starting up or a family vacation. Each event is assigned a stress value. You add all the values of the events you are experiencing and then see where you are on the stress scale. You might find that you have more stress in your life than you realize.

Most health problems do not come from stress alone but from a lack of adequate recovery time. We can handle having a sprained ankle. We can handle being chased by a bear for a brief period. Our body can even handle a short bout of being inundated with all kinds of different germs. However, we cannot handle all three of those scenarios together for an extended period. It is just too much. Chronic stress is extremely unhealthy—even deadly if left unaddressed. Your job is to find were stress exists in your life and eliminate it.

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