Stress Hormones Suppress The Immune System
Much of my work is in the area of psycho-neuro-immunology ("psycho" for brain, "neuro" for nervous system, and "immunology" for the immune system). This is the field of study that aims to map the pathways that stress follows in the body, find the causes, and suggest ways to minimise them.
What is important is that immune cells are in our blood and so contact all the cells in our body. Their job is to keep us healthy by attacking the enemies in our body like cancerous cells and bad bacteria or viruses. What's this to do with stress? When we are stressed our adrenal glands actually pump out the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and these hormones suppress the immune system as well as raise our heart rate and increase our blood pressure.
Daniela Guidara, a psychologist at the Centre for Stress Management and Research at Monash University, says we can't remain stressed for long without paying the price. "If we keep the stress response running, we'll become unwell. Illness stems from a breakdown in the immune system and we can develop a range of things, from tension headaches and stomach problems to sleep and skin disorders."
These afflictions lie in wait, says Guidara, which is why we often get sick when we take holidays. "It can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months for some disorders to manifest themselves, so people need to be careful once the stress passes, because that's when illness can strike." From Tempo Article.
Science Today Tells Us That Stress Is Cumulative
If we don't manage our stress levels, releasing stress as we progress through life, then the immune system is suppressed, damaging tissues and organs which can influence our risk of dying through cancer and heart disease. And all this can be caused through daily living, so it's as well to know about it.
I can hear some people saying "... but I am more productive under stress", and "We need stress hormones (cortisol) to get out of bed in the morning" (cortisol takes over from the sleep hormone, melatonin). When I commanded the Officer Cadet Training Unit and the University of NSW Regiment in my Army Reserve days, our main function was to produce Officers for the Army Reserve. Part of my deliberate policy was to ensure that the trainees could operate under stress - battle is stressful - so the trainees had to battle lack of sleep, long distances, changes of plans which produced frustration, jungle, darkness and more, before they were actually tested in platoon attacks, defence, withdrawal, and patrolling. Can you operate under stress? Yes of course - some better than others, and ....we must also know how to get rid of it! Stemming from the research of Vietnam Veterans we now know that if stress and trauma are not handled soon after the "incident" then that can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"We need [stress hormones] to survive; they protect us," says Dr Bruce McEwen from New York's Rockefeller University. "But at the same time we need to manage their secretion so that when we don't need them, we turn them off. If they become active when we're sitting at home after a day's work and we still feel stressed, that's when they can begin to cause problems."? From Tempo Article.
The Value Of Meditation
I'm sure we all know the value of exercise as a "Stress Buster". Many people handle their stress by jogging, walking and sport. What exercise does is to secrete endorphins - the "feel good" hormones. Experts tell us that exercise alone is not enough.
I urge you to examine your life and the way stress is caused for you. Find the causes! Even the way you talk to yourself can cause stress. Negative self talk can have a major impact on self esteem and self confidence. It can lead to depression. So become aware of your reactions. You can choose to respond and thus become part of the solution.
Writing in May 2003 New Scientist, Professor Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy at Duke University, North Carolina, has shown that Buddhists who meditate appear to be able to stimulate the left pre-frontal lobe - an area just behind the forehead - which indicates positive emotions and good mood - genuine happiness. Professor Flanagan writes: "Anti-depressants are currently the favoured method for alleviating negative emotions but Buddhist meditational practices can lead to profound happiness." Another Study of Buddhists done by scientists at the University of California has found that meditation might tame the amygdala, that part of the brain involved with fear and anger.
Isn't it it exciting to have some potential proof, observed within the brain, about the value of meditation.
Be Part Of The Solution
Companies, Institutions, Managers, Medical Benefit Establishments, Insurance Organisations, etc... all have their role to play in managing stress. I am amazed that Insurance Companies still pay for "stress leave" without insisting on their client (the person taking the stress leave) doing something about their stress other than taking a break. Do a course and learn to manage and deal with the stress. Start to take personal responsibility. A short break will help release stress but then when one returns to work, without any new tools, increased stress will be the inevitable result.
Of course there's always more - what we eat, for example, can stress our bodies. My regimen for managing stress is to meditate for two hours a day in the early morning (I don't always fit it in) and to exercise for half an hour per day with light weights, following a program on video. During the day I use a fast 30 second method to relax and focus. At night I am in a deep sleep soon after my head hits the pillow (having "deleted" little bits of stress throughout the day).
So, please be part of the solution and take care of yourself. Examine how you get stressed and do something about it.
Enjoy the Stories below.
All the Best
Just a quick note to let you know that my daughter and I had a fantastic time with you and the workshop group in Sydney on the weekend seminar. So many positives came out of it for both of us. Here's an example to show how fast your techniques work. I am typically a nervous flyer and I usually have a lot of self talk going on about things like - the plane crashing, or we're up too high - or what if that engine drops off - is the pilot OK - how can he see through this cloud - are we about to fly into a mountain, etc... - makes me feel agitated and tense. but on the flight home I was able to use my PP, combined with the goal of "I enjoy flying, flying is fun". Not one negative thought was able to break through is - no self talk describing mid air plunges, etc... I felt totally relaxed and even enjoyed the bumpy sensations as dropped through the cloud to make a landing. I was very pleased to be able to use the techniques almost immediately - thanks for that. RT, Melbourne.
Several years ago I arrived in Australia with a mission. Sensing that the potential of using the power of the mind to get things "happening" for oneself was one of the key areas I should work with, I read different books and tried different systems, all based on "the powers of the mind", but after a while they all seemed too rigorous and soon bored me. Since reading your book "Piece of Mind" and doing your "Life Skills Seminar" I’ve adopted some of the techniques you have taught me and used some of your CDs and am now in the process of making my own tapes, tailor made for me. I find your method you taught me of entering meditation or just releasing stress is so easy and when I do it I love it! Your CD on "Inner Peace & Harmony" is doing wonders for me. RM Sydney
Thank you very much for thinking of me on my birthday. It was most unexpected but appreciated.
I originally came along to your seminar for a very different reason than that that which I have ended up using your strategies for. My husband and I attended after friends had told us about your seminars, we hoped to set ourselves some goals that would get us over a flat time in our lives, our children have all grown and although not empty nesters as yet our focus of many years( our kids) has changed. The consequences of which where leaving us quite negative and floundering around without direction. You were able to help us with that and we are now on track with our goals.
I however decided to also use your strategies for weight release, something I had lost all faith in ever achieving. I meditate twice a day and have changed many bad habits I have carried around for a very long time, I have also began to realise the deeper reasons for my weight problem and I am working on those also. I am feeling stronger and more in control than I have for years. Thank you for your wonderful life changing strategies, I will keep you up to date on my successes. NJ, Melbourne
Isn't life full of coincidence! (God's way of remaining anonymous!). May people are looking at ways of addressing the issue of stress in society which, as we know, leads to many stress-related illness - even stress related cancer. I was pondering on this matter when an article appeared in "Tempo", by Greg McKenzie titled "Letting Go Of Stress". The author quotes some interviews with experts which are absolutely perfect for explaining stress.
The analytical side of me always wants to know why things work the way they do ... and yet I also subscribe to "when something works for you - do more of it" and the corollary ... "if it doesn't work for you, then do less of it." This statement reminds me of an interesting definition: Insanity is to "Keep on doing the same thing and expect a different result". (This is particularly apt when applied to bad habits). Continuing to remain stressed and not do anything about it, can in itself become a bad habit. I have done some more research, which, together with some quotes from the Tempo Article can provide a greater understanding into stress. In this way, I can be, and I'm hoping you can be, part of the solution to this ever present issue.