The Secret To Reducing Stress: Balancing Life

The Secret To Reducing Stress: A Balanced Life

A statement by the well-known mind/body physician, Herb Benson, M.D. says that 60-90% of all visits to the doctor’s office are due to stress. We all hear about stress, experience stress, but what exactly is stress? Most of us think of stress as the emotional conflicts we experience in our daily lives, but our emotions are just one category or one type of “event” that can cause us to experience stress.

In order for us to survive in our ever-changing environments, our bodies are designed to adapt and it does so through a series of biochemical reactions. These chemical reactions are natural and necessary, but they are the wear and tear of living that we call stress.

Here’s an example I like to share in relations to because it gives a clear vision of this principle. When I was living in New York City, I drove my little stick shift through the stop and go traffic. Imagine the wear and tear (stress) on the clutch.

There are many events that might cause similar stress to our bodies. Some may surprise you.

  • Weather
  • Excess Exertion (such as too much exercise or lack of sleep)
  • Trauma or Injuries
  • Allergies and Immune Insults
  • Infections
  • Reproduction Related Events (monthly cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, etc.)

While the common nature of these events does not sound encouraging, there is some good news. If we have a stress response that is short term, like when the phone rings and the nurse tells you that your child had been vomiting, our bodies do just fine.

It is the prolonged stress, like anticipating for two whole weeks a root canal or that pesky “annual office evaluation.” That does us in! This extended stress affects our digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular and even reproductive systems. Couple this with poor eating habits or insufficient sleep, and we are not happy campers.

While excessive or chronic stress is definitely not good for our health, we need stress adaptation for survival, so it is actually a very good thing. How this adaptation takes place is by way of specialized hormones from our adrenal glands, located in our kidneys. They change our heart rate, blood pressure, lung capacity, and a host of other functions, for our survival. However, these hormones, if secreted too much or too often can suppress our immune, digestive and reproductive systems and even damage our cardiovascular system. Chronic stress is one very large reason why some of us have fertility problems.

So how can we make friends with stress? The answer is good old moderation. Remember being told “all things in moderation leads to a healthy body.” It is true. We do not have to learn to do anything exotic to reduce stress, we just need to balance our lives and avoid excess.

Nevertheless, there is the rub, given modern life. We are all excessing more and more and moderating less. For a great book on this subject, check out Why Zebras Don’t Have Ulcers by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. It is a very witty and informative book. Laugher, as we know, is “our best medicine.” It is also a great stress reducer.

 


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

 

What Causes The Cycle of Emotional Eating?

What Causes The Cycle of Emotional Eating?

Thanks to the work of M.I.T. professor Judith Wurtman, PhD, and others we now understand the significant role that a neurotransmitter or "chemical messenger" called serotonin plays in producing our cravings for complex carbohydrates and sugars, two of the largest contributors to unhealthy weight gain.

Serotonin and other neurotransmitters are produced by our bodies as "feel good" hormones. Under stress, we do not have enough of these hormones and we become motivated to "self-soothe" by behaviors that lead to the increase in serotonin. Overeating carbohydrates and fatty rich foods or "comfort foods" such as cookies, ice cream, and other "treats" significantly increases these hormones. Many addictions such as smoking, drinking alcohol and abusing drugs are also attempts to self soothe and increase serotonin, but no other addictive or unhealthy behavior is as socially accepted and as easily available as overeating. We can do it anywhere, anytime, alone or with company. It is no wonder we have such a love affair with eating.

In addition, the body’s need for certain nutrients, specifically protein, Vitamins A, C and E, unsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol and minerals skyrockets when we are "adapting" under stress. Often, if we do not stop the stress cycle or appropriately supplement these vital nutrients, we can turn to overeating to satisfy the body's demand for the fuel it needs to keep dealing with the stress we are experiencing.

For a period of time, foods that comfort, soothe or supplement can make us feel calmer until our level of serotonin drops again or until we become more exhausted and need to feed ourselves once more. Then we start the cycle all over and consume more carbohydrates and rich, fatty food to stabilize our blood sugar level and brain function until we feel better again.

This is the cycle of self-medication or self-soothing practiced in homes, offices, restaurants, automobiles and yes, even in bathrooms across America. The long-term effect of such behaviors, apart from obesity and escalating chronic diseases, is that our nervous systems are being hyper-stimulated. Anxiety, exhaustion, depression, overeating and insomnia are just a few of the symptoms we experience when our nervous systems are working on overload.

As a result, it is no wonder that within the last few years, low carbohydrate diets have proven effective for so many people. Approximately 20% of Americans, or 20 million people, are currently on low carbohydrate diets. For many of us, our stress level is a major factor in the over-consumption of carbohydrates; therefore reducing or eating normal amounts of carbohydrates is spawning weight loss. However, this is the real issue: How long can we reduce our carbohydrate loading without reducing our stress levels and the behaviors that create elevated stress in the first place?

For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

Being Thankful Heals The Heart

giving thanks heals the heart

What a wonderful gift Thanksgiving, a day for giving and expressing thanks, is for all of us. Anyone and everyone can participate in this day of gathering family and friends to share food and well wishes, taking time to reflect on the things we have been blessed with and are thankful for. This giving thanks heals the heart.

Giving thanks is a healing and healthy act that many of us have sadly reserved for this one special time of the year. Ignatius, the renowned scholar and saint, offers us a powerful insight into the nature of why we suffer – and as it happens, it relates to giving thanks.

Ignatius said that “all suffering starts with ingratitude.” When we lose our appreciation for all that we have and the many blessings each of our lives is bestowed with, we begin to seek, want and covet what others have been blessed with. We put our own gifts aside, much like children do when they see their friend’s or sibling’s shiny new toy.

This gratitude opens the heart and removes “stress” that comes from fear of not having:

– Everything that we want

– Everything that we think we need

– What we see others have

– What we think is due us

– What we believe will make us happy

– What we believe will make us important or loved

Giving thanks for what we have, rather than wanting and longing for things we do not have, is a simple act of love that fills us with the humble pleasure of realizing how the universe cares for us – and is taking care of us.

Even when things are difficult and we are suffering, when we take the time to reflect on all the good things we also have in our lives, we suffer less, worry less and feel happier. This can stimulate real, holistic healing—the cornerstone of whole health. The spirit is healed when we release the resentments we carry. The body is healed when stress is reduced, stress that puts strain on the heart.

Perhaps Ignatius is on to something very holistic when he encourages us to remember the biblical wisdom found in I Thessalonians 5: 18 that recommends to us – “in all things give thanks.” For in this we will find our hearts full and our fears dissolved.

Happy Thanksgiving Holiday Season.

With all good wishes,

Georgianna

 

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Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt To Stress

Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt 

The ability for a human being to adapt to its environment and to deal with the many ongoing and changes it faces is the hallmark of a healthy body. That we can withstand day to day events that challenge our nervous system, and subsequently our immune system, is a reflection that our body is working very efficiently. This all comes back to your adrenal glands and their ability to adapt.

Understanding the connection between how events affect our stress adaptation system, primarily the adrenal glands, and how the adrenal's hyper-secretions under stress can create havoc with the digestive and immune systems is important. This allows us to make informed lifestyle choices that will preserve and respect our body and our long term health.

Variations In Stress

Most of us do not know what stressors are. We tend towards the idea that emotional upset is what constitutes stress. However, there are 12 major categories of stress that can impact our body and health. Unfortunately, we are subject to these stressors on a regular basis.

A stressor is any activity or event that requires the body to change or adapt in order to maintain its homeostasis, or balance. Therefore, it becomes essential to know the factors we must be mindful of in order to keep our stress levels in check.

Below is a list of the stressors to be aware of in your day to day life:

  • Weather (exposure to hot or cold)
  • Sleep and Rest (specifically, not getting enough)
  • Infection or Silent Inflammation  
  • Allergies (all types)
  • Dental or Medical Procedures and Surgeries
  • Reproduction  (for women: menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause)
  • Sexual Activity
  • Nutrition  (too many calories or non-nutritious food) 
  • Exertion and Exercise (too much or not enough)
  • Trauma (any form)
  • Fear, Anxiety, Worry  (ongoing)
  • Loss or grief

By keeping your stress level low, you will reduce wear and tear on your body parts that, in the long term, can lead to chronic illness and disease. It is not the stress itself that makes you sick, but the ongoing wear on the body that causes dysfunction and dis-ease.

Healthy Habits, Healthy Life

There are many ways to reduce stress and maintain a balanced nervous system. While the list is endless here are some of the most popular ways to do so: (1) Exercise regularly. (2) Listen to soothing music. (3) Practice Yoga. (4) Participate in sports. (5) Tend a garden.

Each person finds their best way to relax and de-stress. It is something we all need to do on a regular basis to balance or nervous systems and stay healthy!

 

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How Reducing Your Stress Can Aid Digestion And Prevent Disease

How Reducing Your Stress Can Prevent Illness

Understanding the connection between brain function, cranial nerves, digestion and immune functions illuminates how and why dysfunction and “dis-ease” occur in the body. Just as our machines need electricity to operate, so do our internal organs and cells require electrical impulses to function. The degree to which your nervous system is balanced and well-functioning – or not – is the degree to which you are healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in the world. This is how reducing your stress can aid digestion and prevent disease.

Many healing arts such as acupuncture, yoga postures, meditation, chiropractic, breathing techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and others attempt to restore balance to the nervous system as the pathway to improving internal and external bodily function. These methods address the cause of the presenting condition, rather than just treating the pain or symptom of the bodily malfunction. 

Exploring The Body Systems 

By looking more closely at the digestive system and its intimate relationship with the immune system and the nervous system, we can easily follow the pathway of how brain function and the nervous system can create a “whole body” systemic cascade of bodily reactions, which over time lead to chronic illness and disease. Our nervous systems are impacted by stressors; however, stress is not limited to just the emotional realm as many believe. The topic of stressors and adrenal function are explored more deeply in other blogs.

For now, keep in mind that when our stress or anxiety causes our limbic system to send biochemical messages to our cranial nerves, our digestive systems can be functionally affected. The anxiety and stress increases our adrenal function output, and this increase of adrenal hormones and steroids in turn decreases our digestive and immune system functions.

A written schematic would look like this:

Stressor = A limbic system response and/or increased adrenal cortisol secretion. = Decreased digestive function thru sympathetic cranial nerves (vagus nerve) and decreased immune (bone marrow) function.

Overcoming The Effects Of Stress

The effect of a stressor on the body in the short term can be readily overcome by a healthy, adaptive nervous system. It is the longer stress–the chronic ongoing conditions and issues–that place wear and tear on our nervous systems and organs. It is this friction or wear and tear leads to chronic illness.

By understanding the intimate dance of our body’s organs and systems and how to maintain a balanced, healthy nervous system we can reduce stress to aid digestion and avoid illness or chronic disease, and to live long, productive and disease free lives!

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!

Are You Stressed And Gaining Weight?

What Causes Stress?

If you find yourself feeling stressed and gaining weight, you are not alone. Prior to the early 1970’s, the majority of family units were structured as a one wage earner household where the male worked and the female stayed at home taking care of the house and family. Driven largely by social and socio-economic factors, all of that has changed. Now, the overwhelming majority of families include both parents working. We find ourselves on a treadmill of more work, more responsibilities, more demands and non-stop scheduling that has many of us in a state of physical and, at times, emotional exhaustion.

Added to the mix is our competitive culture, which often lends to isolation or “them against us” thinking. Isolation of this nature causes additional “hidden” stress. The perennial truth is that the whole world is one family. It is said that there is only one disease: the disease of separateness. The root cause is separating oneself from the awareness that as a member of the human family, we are one living collective organism. The drama created by a “one up” or “one down” dynamic, which we find in competitive societies, can lend to the exhaustion and the psycho-social behavioral issues that contribute to overeating.

Exhaustion and Obesity

The tipping point at which our bodies can no longer compensate for or adapt to the stress is based in large part on the threshold of nutritional competency and the state of integrity of our nervous systems. When our central nervous system, which governs every cell in our body and makes life possible, is not working efficiently, we have a decrease in bodily function and a decrease in the ability to adapt to the world.

Chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, is rampant in our culture today and growing at an alarming rate because of the over stimulation and increased demands placed on our nervous systems. Add to this inadequate nutrition and a decreased ability of our bodies to digest and absorb properly because of the stress, and we see the building blocks of the epidemic of chronic disease currently being reported.

The Hard Results

What is so shocking for us as American’s is that while we live in one of the most affluent societies ever to exist on earth and have one of the most technologically advanced medical systems, we are ranked at approximately 26th in the “World Health Olympics”.

This is not the failure of our medical system but, in fact, our collective societal failure to live in our bodies mindfully and respectfully, taking time for rest, proper nutrition, reflection, intimacy with self and others and serving the common good of all. It is this imbalance that leads us to chronic stress, which leads to physical and, if you will, spiritual exhaustion that is producing the levels of chronic disease and rampant obesity we see today.

 

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888-354-4325 Take charge of your health!