Stress can kill:
I was reading an article recently of an athlete who had a heart attack. He was physically fit with a resting heart rate of below 50. He was not fat and all indications he would not be recognized as a candidate for a heart attack. Yet, it happened. While he may never know the exact cause, he did attribute part of it to stress.
Stress can kill if you were to let it be chronic. I’m not talking about physical stress. It’s the emotional stress (distress) that can create havoc upon your body. It can also lead one to live less than healthy. Many people under emotional stress tend to eat more junk food, exercise less and sleep less too. On top of that, stress raises chronic inflammation. The reasoning for this has to do with the body inability to regulate proinflammatory molecules (cytokines) when the body is under emotional stress (Cohen, et. al., 2012).
Obesity that happens when the body is under stress due to the increase in stress hormones on a chronic level leads to many physical ailments. This includes diabetes, gut disorders and even organ dysfunction.
Stress can cause Mental decline:
Besides how stress harms our bodies, it can also have an effect on our mental functioning too. A 2001 study looked into how chronic stress over someone’s lifetime leads to mental decline later in life, namely Alzheimer’s disease. While it’s been shown that acute stress helps in memory formation by using the group of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids (of which cortisol fall into this group). If you’ve ever had a traumatic event, chances are you probably will remember it. Some of my earliest memories were due to trauma. I can recall a memory at 18 months old.
Chronic stress and the release of the same glucocorticoids can have the opposite effect. In this case it leads to brain changes. In fact, prolonged stress over even a few weeks can lead to shrinkage in neurons in the brain and spine (Liston and Gan, 2011). It is noted that the right amount of glucocorticoids is needed for brain growth, excess amounts that come from chronic stress is detrimental to our brain.
Chronic stress can even lead to an imbalance in white versus grey matter in the brain (Anderson, 2014). When this happens, we see the consequences in individuals that have suffered from lifelong chronic stress. This is especially true when it happens to someone that was conceived. Diseases such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and the like occur when there’s an increase in white matter and shrinkage in neurons.
So, looking at the problems that chronic stress leads to, it’s important to know what to do when faced with it. Among the first suggestions that I can make is to live as healthy a lifestyle as you can. Things like exercise, eating foods closest to Mother Nature and 7 hours of sleep all help in a big way.
3 Mind Hacks To Help Reduce Emotional Stress:
Besides doing each of the above things, there are 3 “Mind Hacks” that you can do as well… All three also takes into account the process of deep breathing, which further helps reduce stress and anxiety.
1. Mindfulness Meditation and Awareness.
2014 is the year of mindfulness and for good reason. It works! Study after study has looked into the ancient form of stress reduction has proven it is one of the best strategies around. The basic premise is that by living in the present moment, stress and anxiety can’t exist. At least it can’t in the chronic sense. We still need the acute form of stress to help deal with real dangers. Jon-Kabat Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) system, designed for workplaces and beyond. Even the military is using his training to help our armed forces deal with the stress of combat.
A 2013 study compared MBSR with a Health Enhancement Program (HEP) and discovered the mindfulness training to be superior in effectiveness to reduce cortisol. Zen Buddhism uses mindfulness as a big part of its training of monks and Zen Masters. I trained in mediation decades ago and even as a part of my early martial arts training in Okinawa. My formal training in meditation came in the 1970’s when I was introduced to Transcendental Meditation (TM). It does work, even back then. Meditation is simply thinking of nothing and just staying in the moment.
Being able to access one’s subconscious mind to help eliminate what causes stress in an individual is a key to hypnosis. Normally, one was enlist the help of a professional skilled in using hypnosis. When this is not available for you, then self-hypnosis is the next best thing. Self-hypnosis was shown to be very effective in reducing the stress hormone cortisol as well as increasing the anti-aging hormone DHEA-S (Johansson & Uneståhl2, 2006). The difference is that you have to be even more aware regarding the suggestions you make and be more in control. You can help get yourself into a state of hypnosis by several means. One way is to use progressive relaxation. In may case, I’m already quite trained to go into hypnosis quick (when I need or want to).
3. EEG Neurofeedback and Biofeedback.
EEG Neurofeedback is an advanced version of biofeedback using EEG technology. This is about training your brain to respond to the feedback your body is giving you. That way you can make adjustments. In this case, it’s eliminating emotional stress. Polygraph machines (lie detectors) are based upon biofeedback and the operator will use to help discover whether someone is deceiving them. EEG Neurofeedback uses EEG technology and in today’s world the user will use it to help train their brain via a computer game. There are several versions, including ones for the home user. Professional practitioners will utilize advanced versions to help their clients retrain their brain. My friend, Dr. Al Barrios, has a biofeedback-based Stress Control card that he sells at his site spccenter.com. There’s also a book that goes along with it.
You have more control over reducing emotional stress in your life than you can imagine. Each of the 3 above are powerful and effective in doing so. Now it’s up to you.