This book will analyze the causes of stress and how thoughts, perceptions and learned experiences contribute to disease and illness. Information discussed will explore how stress affects the human body and the methods that can be used to reduce stress by Re-Defining (re-framing) how the brain interprets stress, which will allow the body to become balanced and prevent disease.
Stress is everywhere. By definition it is the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it. All humans, both adults and children, experience stress. From dealing with a cranky boss, demanding parents, bullies at school, coping with the loss of a loved one or financial worries, stress is impossible to avoid. Stress can be acute, such as how the body reacts in the face of danger, or it can be chronic when a person is dealing with long-term stressful situations.
The body has a natural mechanism to cope with stress and when allowed to return to homeostasis, a person can function relatively disease free. However, stress is not easy to control. Usually the body's breakdown is the first signal that a person is suffering from severe stress. There are limited studies of the incidence of stress (as opposed to anxiety or depression), making it important for people to understand the effects of stress on the body.
The cognitive long-term results of stress have been linked to the development of many physical illnesses and diseases. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and, conversely, the reduction of stress can help to strengthen the immune system. Stress can be conceptualized as a four stage cycle: thoughts, emotions, chemical reactions, and physical symptoms. It is not the pressures in one's life that cause stress. It is the way a person thinks about them. Epictetus, in 120 AD, believed that man is not disturbed by things, but by the views he takes of them. Thousands of years later, man has gotten worse in dealing with stress. Humans continue to remain caught up with unhealthy thoughts, perceptions and learned reasoning, which has led to an epidemic of stress in Western Society.
People have the ability to either create stress or reverse it. Like a professional athlete who can either psyche himself/herself up for a win or a loss, it is this same process that a person can accomplish to control cognitive stress and keep the body in a state of homeostasis. The body's response to stress can produce the same arteriosclerosis risk that results from smoking or high cholesterol levels. This condition drastically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Stress has also been linked to the development and progression of cancer, since it reduces the body's natural ability to seek out and destroy malignant cells. Mental stress also makes it more difficult to withstand the exhausting treatments often required to treat cancer, such as chemotherapy and radiation. Other diseases that are associated with stress include type II diabetes, ulcers, respiratory dysfunction, infections, and depression.
Stress is the body's natural mechanism to protect itself. With the enormous amount of pressures life has to offer, it has become a crutch that is driving millions of people unnecessarily to their doctors with stress-related illnesses. The brain is the origination point of stress and the main organ in the body that dictates whether a person will be healthy or ill.
When humans are experiencing a sense of "well-being" a "normal" amount of endorphins is present in the brain. However, when experiencing stress, the level of endorphins drops significantly. Some researchers estimate that the amount of stress in society doubles every ten years. The bottom line is that if stress levels do not seek their normal balance, the output of endorphins cannot return to equilibrium. Eventually, while under chronic stress, endorphin levels will keep lowering, creating poor health.
Releasing the sense of over-urgency in a person's life often becomes an ideal rather than a reality. People who create a more serene life and discover more enriching ways to live often have a better life (Carrington, 2001). Throughout history stress has been recognized as a force that seriously needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, teaching people to control stress can be unprofitable for doctors and pharmaceutical companies who make their living treating, instead of curing. It is the purpose of this paper to show people that there are remedies they can do on their own to improve their health.
However, the problem of stress is not that simple. Constant exposure to stressors in life has altered our brain, which in turn has altered the body's ability to maintain a homeostasis state. Human cells have a memory, and when chronic stress is not given the time to recede, the body will not return to equilibrium. The immune system reacts to any form of stress. Over time, unrelieved stress will seriously break down the immune system, eventually opening the body up to illness and disease.
Nowadays, people are bombarded with what might be called the belief system of stress, which suggests that psychological and physiological well-being is constantly threatened by degrees of stress unparalleled in history. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Life has always been historically stressful. What has changed is how humans cope with stress. Stress changes the way a person perceives the world: it affects one's senses, memory, judgment, and behavior (Martin 1997). It is important to understand the infectious nature of stress and how it seduces a person to crave it.
Managing stress can be complicated and confusing. There are different types of stress-acute, episodic, and chronic-each having its own characteristics, symptoms, duration, and treatment approaches. It is the myriad of stress that hinders a person's ability to get a handle on its management. It is hard to compare the stress humans faced thousands of years ago with today's situations. What can be analyzed today is the effects cognitive stress has on the body. The difference now is that humans have lost the ability to manage every day pressures, which has elevated their perceptions to interpret that their hectic life-styles are a signal for survival. Perceptions and learned experiences are totally out of skew and need to be brought back in line to allow the body to regain its ability to become balanced and healthy. I will attempt to show that once a person has an understanding of their unique stressors, how their individual perceptions and learned experiences control them, and the effects stress has on their body, they can direct the mind to re-type stress and bring the body back to an equilibrium state.