How (and Why) To Deal With Stress Once and For All

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If you don’t think stress affects your health, you haven’t read enough about it.

Many researchers believe that stress is the root cause of all disease. That’s because chronic stress can depress your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to fungal overgrowth and all manner of disease. 

A less well-understood issue was discussed by psychologist Dr. Alexander Lloyd, who essentially described stress’ impact on the body as being a sort of log-jam at the cellular level. This means that under chronic stress, nutrients simply cannot enter your cells effectively, nor can cellular toxins exit.  

Dr Bruce Lipton, working with Stanford University Medical School, estimates that 95% of all illness is due to stress. The Centers for Disease Control puts the number at 90%. Studies that tend to prove those estimates come from Harvard, Yale, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Boston University, Mayo Clinic, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and a slew of other respected academic and clinical sources.

DON’T SYMPATHIZE WITH STRESS

When it comes to stress, you should know that our central nervous system is organized into two main parts:  The Sympathetic and the Para-sympathetic systems.

The sympathetic side plays an enormous role when we think about stress-related illness. It’s the side that is engaged when we’re under chronic or acute stress; the so-called “fight or flight” side. Think about the tornado sirens sounding (sorry; I’m from Oklahoma), or the two-in-the-morning phone call you dread. These are when the sympathetic nervous system is engaged.

The parasympathetic system is the side that is engaged in health, healing, and growth. Those engaged in therapeutic yoga or tai chi may have heard from your instructor that the goal is to engage the parasympathetic nervous system when practicing these arts. There’s even something called “parasympathetic breathing”, which is designed to calm the body and mind down to a place most involved in healing.

When we are chronically stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is sounding the siren in full effect. When that happens, a series of events occurs in the body.

According to Dr Lloyd, blood flow in the body changes and digestion slows down to a near halt. The creative parts of the brain dis-engage. Blood flow slows down to the kidneys. The liver’s detoxifying function slows. Your body turns to total survival mode. 

Imagine that your family has to evacuate from your home immediately. You aren’t worried about the TV, the video games, the bed, your favorite pillow, the artwork you may have created, your school textbooks, or saving all the food in the fridge. All you’re doing is getting the only things you need to evacuate and survive, plus perhaps your photo albums. That’s it. You’re not concerned about comfort, leisure, creativity, growth, learning, or anything else that doesn’t immediately relate to basic survival.

That’s exactly what happens to the body under chronic stress. It’s concerned about very basic survival, and little else. It’s not on-boarding nutrients, or detoxifying, or resting. It’s merely existing.

The effects of being in this chronic emergency mode cannot be overstated. It’s nearly impossible to heal from or stave off disease. It’s extremely hard to lose weight. It’s difficult to relax and sleep. It ages you rapidly.

What’s worse, it’s very hard for your nutrition program to have it’s full impact under these circumstances. I’ve experienced this first-hand, and I’ve seen it happen in countless nutrition counseling clients. Specifically, I’ve seen folks eat well, supplement well, and exercise consistently, but experience almost no positive effects from the good habits.

It’s as if the body is immune to the good habits when it’s under constant stress.

I, myself, have had Doug pull me aside and have a heart to heart talk with me when I’ve been extremely stressed, and nothing I’m doing physically is helping. He had to have the “let go and let God” conversation where we approach the problem from a strictly spiritual-emotional level rather than a physical level, especially when I’m doing everything “right”, physically. 

On the other hand….when the body is in parasympathetic mode, and you’re free of stress and worry, it’s like a universal shield against disease taking hold. Perhaps overstating it a bit, Dr Lloyd makes a bold statement about this:  “A cell in growth and healing mode is impervious to disease.”

I’ve seen this. Over the years, I’ve talked about my dad, who was a World War 2 vet, and a faithful family man for all of his 89 years. 

Dad had strength and energy his entire life. He needed to! He and mom brought me into this world when he was 50 years old! Yet, he worked all day, then came home at night and played catch with me, or took me to the local pool, and took me camping regularly, never missing a beat.

Dad was also never sick. I mean NEVER sick. I don’t remember him ever having a cold, and when he died peacefully, he was on zero medications. The doctors were shocked by this.

If you knew my dad, you knew that he was also never, ever stressed. He was calm and soft-spoken. He was never late, but never rushed. He was responsible, finis