Then one day, as I was walking in our neighborhood park pondering over these questions, I suddenly got the answers. A profound wisdom sank in. Things became crystal clear. You could call it enlightenment!
With this awakening, I felt a huge psychological load lift off my shoulders. I experienced a true psychological freedom. Now I feel a sense of joy and peace inside me which is hard to describe in words. I have much more physical and psychological energy than I ever imagined possible at the age of 55.
My outlook on life has completely changed. Now, I fully experience every moment of life. I truly live in the now. I am joyful and peaceful all the time. I stay completely free of stress, even under quite stressful situations. I call it the ultimate freedom.
For example, four years ago, I encountered a serious illness. I lost a lot of weight and looked like someone from a concentration camp, as my wife bluntly told me one day. During this time, I was admitted to the hospital twice, but doctors still could not figure out what was wrong with me. The “old me” would have been very anxious, disappointed and depressed over this whole dreadful situation, but fortunately, this illness happened after my enlightenment. I walked on this frightening road with such a peace that even I was amazed at myself at times! Not for a moment was I depressed, disappointed, angry or anxious. Slowly, this medical situation resolved, without any medications. I believe my inner peace and energy provided immense healing power from within.
In my personal life, my wife, daughter and friends find me calmer, happier and joyful. Now I go to my clinic to truly help my patients and make a reasonable living. My memory is sharper than ever. I don’t even forget where I put my car keys anymore. Whatever activity I am involved in, I do it better than I did before, but always with a sense of calmness and peace.
I don’t create stress for myself or for anyone else! Actually, people around me feel peaceful as well. Now I have realized that true peace has a ripple effect and it starts from you.
It breaks my heart to see so many people living a stressful life and not having a clue what it’s all about. That’s why I was compelled to write this book. I want to share my experience and wisdom with you. Wisdom is power. By using this power of wisdom, you can be free of your stress, right now. Yes, it is that simple!
In “Stress Cure Now,” I show you the path to the ultimate freedom from stress. Walk on this path and you can be free of stress as well. My path to a stress-free life is based on logic, the most powerful tool we humans have. When I examined my life, using logic, I was in for a big surprise! My whole outlook about life changed dramatically. It’s as if I woke up from a deep psychological sleep. After this awakening, everything became crystal clear about:
The origin of stress
The dynamics of stress
The solution of stress
In this book, I will share with you my earnest and sincere observations about life. I’m not trying to convince you. In no way I am trying to upset anyone’s feelings. What I describe are my observations based upon logic. I am not judging or criticizing anyone, or any group of people. I do not have any affiliation with any political party or religious organization. You may or may not agree with me, but please think; and think logically with an open-mind. After all, it is your life. I am simply inviting you to take a fresh look at it with logic.
In order to get the most benefits out of this book, you need to read it in its entirety. While reading the book, you may find your mind popping with questions, judging some parts of the book to be right, exciting and interesting while others as wrong, boring and repetitive. It's all fine. Just do yourself a favor and keep reading the book with an open mind. Write down your questions. Most likely you will find answers in the later part of the book.
The book has been in the making over the past five years. Since my enlightenment, I would have periods of what I can describe as "spontaneous outpouring of original thoughts." I would write these down. Then I decided to compile these "episodic writings" into a book form. The book went through only minimal editing, because I wanted to keep the original thoughts intact. That's why the book does not follow the strict rules of "book writing."
Lastly, a word of caution. Please do not stop taking any medications on your own. You need to discuss it with your physician. In no way I am trying to diagnose or treat your medical or psychiatric condition.
I am simply showing you a new way to "cure stress" and live a “stress-free life.”
The Harmful Effects of Stress
Stress affects your emotional as well as physical health. There is a strong mind - body connection. The Mind controls the function of each and every cell in the body. A stressed out mind leads to a stressed out body.
Stress, in this way, plays an important role in the causation of most medical illnesses. Of course, stress is not the only culprit. There are other factors such as genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, pollution and micro-organisms that take part in the development of medical illnesses. But stress is a major player.
Here are some examples how stress adversely affects your health:
Stress Causes High Blood Pressure
Stress is a well known risk factor for high blood pressure. In my office, if your blood pressure is found to be elevated, I’ll give you my brief talk (a glimpse of what is in this book) and check your blood pressure again in about 30 minutes. It often comes down by 10-20 points. Patients are amazed.
Some patients say, “But I’m in your office, doc. That’s why my blood pressure is high.” Well, it is true that just being in a physician’s office can be stressful and stress does raise your blood pressure through the mind-body connection.
Now imagine how frequently you deal with stress in daily life: someone cuts you off in traffic; your boss cancels your vacation; your child misbehaves in front of the school principal; your spouse doesn’t listen to what you say; your son calls you for more money. You got the picture?
The fact is that life is full of annoyances and of course, you don’t keep checking blood pressure all the time. In many people, these stresses of daily life trigger a rise in blood pressure. Initially, your blood pressure goes up and then comes down. That’s called labile hypertension. After a few years of these spikes, your blood pressure remains elevated all the time. Then, you’re diagnosed with “hypertension” and your physician typically prescribes medications, all without paying any attention to the root cause: stress. In time, you’ll need more and more medications to control your hypertension, as the root cause remains untreated.
When patients consult me, they’re usually already on medications to treat their hypertension. Instead of adding another pill to control their blood pressure, I teach them what you are about to learn in this book and this strategy works extremely well. In medical literature, there’s abundant evidence to show that techniques which utilize the mind-body connection can successfully lower blood pressure.
Stress Causes Heart Attacks
Acute stress can lead to an actual heart attack. I’m not talking about just a sensation of chest tightness while you’re under stress (which often turns out not to be an actual heart attack). I’m referring to an actual heart attack verified by ECG and blood testing. This association between stress and heart attack is very well documented in medical literature and my extensive medical experience testifies to it.
I vividly remember one particular case. I was watching the final
basketball championship game between the
Stress Causes Infections
We are constantly exposed to viruses and bacteria, but we don’t develop infections all the time. The reason? Our immune system, which is there to recognize the offending agent, mounts an attack and kills it.
When your immune system is healthy, it gets rid of the offending virus or bacteria so fast that you don’t even develop any symptoms. On the other hand, if your immune system is weak, the offending virus or bacteria can thrive and results into frequent and prolonged illnesses that can even kill a person.
Stress is a major reason for weakening of your immune system. Consequently, it increases your risk for all sorts of infections, such as common colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis and other infections.
Stress Causes Autoimmune Diseases
In an autoimmune disease, your immune system goes haywire. It starts to attack and kill your own cells as if they are alien and therefore, must be destroyed. But why does the immune system go crazy?
While there are many reasons for the dysfunction of the immune system, stress reeks havoc on the immune system and therefore, plays a major role in the development of auto-immune diseases.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases:
· Ulcerative colitis
· Crohns’ disease
· Irritable bowel syndrome
· Peptic ulcer disease
· Vitamin B12 deficiency
· Pernicious anemia
· Type 1 diabetes
· Multiple sclerosis (M.S.)
· Chronic rheumatologic conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, systemic lupus erythematosis, commonly known as lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis).
· Autoimmune thyroid disease, which can either cause you to have a low level of thyroid hormone (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or a high level of thyroid hormone (Graves’ disease).
As an endocrinologist, I see a lot of patients with autoimmune Type 1 diabetes and autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Over-active thyroid (Graves’ disease) and Under-active thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). These patients often also have other autoimmune diseases listed above.
In these patients, I consistently find a high level of stress, usually a Type A personality (overachiever) and a lot of anxiety. In addition, these patients are also low in Vitamin D.
I vividly remember one particular case: A young female came to see me for an over-active thyroid condition (Graves’ disease). She was accompanied by her husband. During my first encounter, I found that her husband answered all of my questions. I didn’t make much of it and thought that she was probably a shy person. I started her on a drug to treat Graves’ disease.
A month later, on the second appointment, she was accompanied not only by her husband, but her five children. Her husband introduced each child, one by one. When he uttered their name, each child would stand up, step forward, say their name and sit down (only after being told to do so). Somehow, it reminded me of the movie, “The Sound of Music” when the Von Trapp children introduce themselves with an almost military precision. Anyway, I thought this family was a bit odd, but didn’t think much beyond that. I refilled the patient’s medicine and advised her to see me again in two months with a repeat blood test. I did stress that the drug she was taking can cause serious side-effects, so close monitoring was important.
Unfortunately, she did not show up for her next appointment. I got concerned and tried to contact her by telephone and letters, but to no avail. I kept thinking that without the medicine, she would develop severe symptoms of overactive thyroid and end up in the emergency department of a hospital.
Finally, one day she showed up in my office after about a year all by herself. During this visit, she couldn’t stop talking. She was fluent in English and not shy at all.
She started by saying that her husband had passed away. “How do you feel?” I asked. “Oh! I’m feeling just fine. I haven’t taken the medicine you prescribed for nine months, but I feel no symptoms of over-active thyroid.” Then she also explained that her husband was extremely suspicious of her, kept her inside the house and was a control freak. She had been very afraid of him. She said her life was a “living hell on earth.”
I went ahead and ordered a blood test to check her thyroid hormone level which, to my utter astonishment, turned out to be perfectly normal. To put things in perspective, Graves’ disease usually requires treatment with drugs for about two years with a success rate of about 50%. The alternative treatment is an ablation with radioactive iodine. It does not subside by itself in a matter of months. It is unheard of. And yet, that is what happened when the stress in her life disappeared. This case clearly illustrates the power of stress in causing Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder.
Stress Causes Diabetes
While there are several factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, stress is an important one.
This is how:
Type 2 Diabetes:
About 95% of diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which occurs due to a process in the body called insulin resistance. Stress is a major cause for insulin resistance. Obesity is another important culprit for insulin resistance. Stress through Stress Eating plays the main underlying cause for obesity. In this way, stress significantly contributes to a person’s obesity and risk for developing diabetes.
Insulin resistance is a process in the body which causes insulin, a chemical in your body, to be less effective in keeping your blood sugar normal. Consequently, your body produces more insulin in order to keep your blood sugar normal. This compensatory increase in the amount of insulin may control your blood sugar for a while, but it’s harmful for the rest of the body. Large amounts of insulin can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for cancer. Insulin resistance also increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes.
After many years of escalating insulin resistance, eventually your insulin producing cells in the pancreas get exhausted and cannot churn out the huge amounts of insulin needed to keep your blood sugar normal. At this point, your blood sugar starts to rise and you end up being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type I diabetes is the other type of diabetes. It is much less common, accounting for about 5% of diabetics. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your dysfunctional immune system starts to attack and kill your own insulin producing cells. Eventually your pancreas is unable to produce any insulin and you become diabetic. As I mentioned earlier, stress is a major reason for the dysfunction of your immune system. To learn more about diabetes, please refer to my book, “Take Charge of Your Diabetes.”
Stress Worsens Diabetes.
Many diabetics know that their blood glucose gets elevated when they are under stress, even though their eating habits didn’t change at all. They also know that with the release of stress, their elevated blood glucose comes down.
Over the years, I have seen many such examples. I vividly remember one particular case.
The gentleman was a highly successful businessman who was struggling to keep his blood glucose levels down. Then he went on a vacation to his native homeland in a rural setting. When he came back from vacation, he came to see me. “Doc, you’ve been telling me about the effects of stress on diabetes. You are absolutely right. During my vacation, my blood glucose readings were perfect for the first time. Now that I’m back at work, my blood glucose levels are going up again.” He was genuinely excited to see for himself the strong relationship between stress and high blood glucose levels.
Even subtle stress can elevate your blood glucose levels. For example, some diabetics get so preoccupied by their blood glucose readings that they stress themselves out. As a result, their blood glucose reading starts to escalate. Then they get more stressed out and a vicious cycle sets in.
I remember one lady who was always preoccupied with her blood glucose readings. During one visit, I told her to stop checking her blood glucose. Two months later, her diabetes was under better control, as evidenced by her blood test report from the laboratory. She was completely amazed.
These examples clearly demonstrate the negative impact of stress on diabetes.
Stress Causes Chronic Diarrhea and Constipation
Millions of people suffer from chronic diarrhea and/or constipation. Often these symptoms are accompanied by abdominal cramps, excessive gas and tiredness. In medical terms, we call it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Stress is a well known major factor for IBS. Most people who suffer from IBS can clearly relate their bout of diarrhea or constipation to an acute stress.
In a more severe form, people also develop blood and mucus in their loose stools. This condition is medically known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two forms of IBD. Stress is a very well known risk factor for IBD.
Stress Causes Low Back Pain
Millions of people suffer from chronic low back pain which is often debilitating and interferes with their lifestyle. They visit their doctor who often prescribes pain killers and orders a CT or MRI scan which often shows some degenerative abnormalities in the spine. Then physicians and patients conveniently blame these structural abnormalities for their symptoms. But here are some interesting medical facts.
Many people, while having some chronic degenerative changes in their spine, do not suffer from chronic back pain while others do. Several studies have clearly shown that the psychological make-up of a person is the principal determinant whether a person will suffer from chronic back pain or not.
I have often seen patients who develop severe back pain when under severe psychological stress. And when the acute stress is gone, so is their back pain.
I am not discounting cases of severe back pain which are due to structural changes, such as fracture of a vertebra or acute prolapse of a disc. However, these pains actually subside after a few weeks. Chronic back pain that goes on for months and years is at least, in part, due to stress. Furthermore, chronic debilitating back pain itself creates more stress, which further worsens back pain and in this way, a vicious cycle sets in.
Stress causes spasms of muscles in the back and contributes to ongoing back pain months after a vertebra or a prolapsed disc has healed. Vitamin D deficiency is another common cause of chronic back pain, which unfortunately remains undiagnosed and untreated in most people.
Stress Causes Cancer
While there are many factors that can cause cancer, stress is one of them.
A normal immune system is important for killing abnormal cells in the body, including cancer cells. This function is carried out by specialized cells, called Natural Killer cells. That’s why a normal functioning immune system is your safety net against cancer.
Stress impairs your immune system and thus may increase your risk for cancer. And if you get diagnosed with cancer, you are completely devastated. The amount of stress is unbelievable, which further impairs the ability of your own immune system to kill cancer cells.
Stress Can Halt Your Menses
In women, stress is well known to cause a cessation of menses. Acute emotional trauma, such as a divorce, preparing for a performance or an examination, or a young girl leaving home for the first time to go to college, can stop menses for a while.
Severe emotional stress affects the hypothalamus, a vital structure in the brain, which then affects the ovaries in such a way that menses come to a halt. It is body's way to stop reproduction at the time of stress.
Stress Causes Impotence, Decreased Libido and Infertility
Stress is a major reason for impotence, lack of sexual drive and decreased fertility due to a decrease in sex hormones. Again, it is the body's way to stop reproduction at a time of stress.
Ironically, when people develop these symptoms, they get more stressed out, which leads to worsening of the symptoms and a vicious cycle sets in.
Stress Causes Chronic Headaches
Chronic headaches are often the result of underlying chronic stress. Due to stress, the muscles around the skull get tense and give rise to a headache. In medical terms, we refer to them as tension headaches. Ironically, we treat them with medicines without paying any attention to the underlying cause – stress. Amazing!
Stress Causes Memory Loss
Stress is a major cause for memory loss. Find out for yourself. Next time you’re upset, you’ll notice that your memory is not very sharp. In fact, people who stay upset and angry often end up with memory loss as they grow older, as compared to people who are the happy go lucky type. Because physicians cannot find a treatable medical reason for their memory loss, they label this condition as Alzheimer's disease. The news of this diagnosis creates huge anxiety for patients as well as caregivers. Many people these days worry that they will develop Alzheimer's disease in their old age. In this way, they hasten their own memory loss, while worrying about how to prevent memory loss. How ironic!
Stress Causes Psychological Illnesses
Stress is the major reason for insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, bipolar affective disorder, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, addictions and even psychosis. I discuss these disorders in detail later in the book.
Stress Causes Tiredness
Tiredness is perhaps the most common symptom people experience. Often, it’s caused by a mixture of psychological and physical effects of stress. A stressed out mind leads to a stressed out body.
The following effects of stress can contribute to tiredness in a person. For many people, more than one condition is a causative factor of tiredness.
· Continuous psychological pressure wears you down. It could be pressure to achieve, succeed or accomplish. The pressure could arise out of performing, seeking approval or meeting certain tight schedules or deadlines.
· Insomnia, which causes daytime somnolence and tiredness.
· Depression leads to low energy state.
· Autoimmune thyroid disease (underactive or overactive thyroid) causes tiredness.
· Diabetes, if uncontrolled, leads to tiredness.
· Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is an autoimmune disorder, causes tiredness.
· Chronic rheumatologic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are due to autoimmune dysfunction and give rise to a lot of tiredness.
· Adrenal Insufficiency: A rare condition in which your immune system attacks and kills your adrenal glands. You end up with profound fatigue and low blood pressure.
In summary, stress working through the mind-body connection plays a pivotal role in causing most illnesses. Obviously, it’s important to understand the mind-body connection. In the next chapter, let's take a close look at it.
The Mind-Body Connection
In order to fully understand how stress causes physical and psychological ailments, we first need to understand the Mind-Body connection.
The brain controls the function of each and every cell in the body. At the same time, it continuously gets feedback from each and every cell in the body. It’s a two-way traffic!
The brain and body are intimately connected to each other through three main mechanisms: Nerve fibers, Hormones and the Immune system.
1. Nerve Fibers
Nerve fibers are basically an extension of the brain. There is a vast network of nerve fibers in our body. Some of these nerves carry information from the brain to the body and other types of nerves carry information from the body to the brain.
For example, when you move your hand, what happens behind the scene works like this: The brain sends information through the nerves to a group of muscles in the hand. Some of these muscles contract and other relax in a harmony, resulting in a certain type of movement. These types of actions are called voluntary actions and the nerve fibers that carry these actions constitute the somatic nervous system.
Stress Affects the Somatic Nervous System
Normally, somatic nerves keep a certain level of tone in the muscles. Under stress, this tone is markedly increased, giving rise to tense muscles. Often, we are unaware of this tension, but if we pay attention, we can easily sense this tension.
For example, right now, take a break from reading this book and pay attention to your muscles. Relax your muscles. Only after you’re relaxed, will you realize how tense your muscles were before.
Tense muscles are the main reason for chronic headaches, chronic low back pain and other aches and pains that so many people suffer from. For the same reason, it feels good after someone gives you a massage.
The Autonomic Nervous System
Then there are involuntary actions, such as the beating of the heart or the act of breathing. These actions take place continuously and most of the time we’re not even aware of them. That’s why we call them involuntary actions. These actions are carried out by a specialized type of nerves called autonomic nerves.
Autonomic nerves control the automatic functioning of our internal organs such as the beating of the heart, inhalation and exhalation of air, production of saliva and digestive juices from the stomach and motility of the intestines.
The autonomic nervous system is divided into two types: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Both of these systems are extremely important for the normal functioning of our body.
The Sympathetic nervous system is the predominant player during exercise and “threatening conditions.” Sympathetic nerves carry out their function by producing two chemicals: Adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. These chemicals instantaneously increase your heart rate and blood pressure, dilate your airways for optimal breathing, increase your blood glucose, make your pupils dilate and make changes in your lens to optimize distance vision. In this way, the sympathetic nervous system primes your body to face a threatening condition and prepares you to either fight or run away. That’s why we call it the “fight-or-flight” response. The activated sympathetic nervous system also acts on the skin and causes increased sweating and goose bumps.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System, on the other hand, is the predominant player during resting conditions and after eating. These nerves act by producing a chemical called Acetylcholine. This chemical causes an instantaneous increase in the amount of saliva and digestive juices from the stomach, pancreas, gall bladder and intestines. It also increases motility of the stomach, intestines and urinary bladder. It increases insulin production from the pancreas to store excess calories from food into the muscles and fat. In addition, it decreases your heart rate. In this way, the parasympathetic nervous system works to digest food, store food energy and also to conserve energy by decreasing its expenditure.
Stress Affects the Autonomic Nervous System
Stress disrupts the normal functioning of the autonomic nervous system and causes a variety of symptoms. Chronic stress, for example, causes an increased release of nor-adrenaline which causes an increase in blood pressure.
Acute stress can cause a sudden rush of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline which causes the heart to beat faster and more forcefully. It can precipitate an acute heart attack if someone already has a diseased heart.
Chronic stress disrupts the normal functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system and can give rise to chronic diarrhea and abdominal cramping, typically seen in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
In addition to nerves, the body and brain are also connected through hormones.
What is a hormone? Simply put, a hormone is a substance produced by one part of the body that then gets in blood circulation and affects the functions of various organs in the body. For example, thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland in your neck. Then it gets in blood circulation and exerts its affects on almost every organ in the body.
How much thyroid hormone is produced at any given time is regulated by a tiny structure in the brain, the Pituitary gland, which itself is controlled by another tiny structure in the brain, the Hypothalamus.
Not only thyroid hormone, but most other hormones in the body such as testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and growth hormone, are tightly regulated by the hypothalamus. Therefore, you could call the hypothalamus the “high command center” for most hormones in the body.
Now consider this: The hypothalamus is connected to various parts of the brain, including the brain centers for our memory and emotions, known as the Hippocampus, Amygdala and Prefrontal cortex.
Emotional stress can alter your hormones working through the hypothalamus and cause symptoms such as cessation of menses, impotence and decreased fertility.
By far the most important stress hormones are produced by your adrenal glands, two tiny glands that each sit on top of each kidney. These stress hormones are cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline.
Stress, working through the prefrontal cortex-hippocampus-amygdala, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, ultimately makes your adrenal glands pour out large amounts of cortisol.
A high level of cortisol worsens insulin resistance, weakens muscles, causes obesity, raises blood pressure and blood glucose, weakens bones and impairs the immune system.
In addition to cortisol, the adrenal glands also produce adrenaline and nor-adrenaline which get into blood circulation and cause all the effects discussed earlier under “Fight or flight” response. In fact, the adrenaline and nor-adrenaline released from the adrenal glands stay in blood circulation for a much longer period as compared to these chemicals produced by the sympathetic nerve fibers at their nerve endings.
Stress, especially in the form of worries and anxiety, provokes a “fight-or-flight” response and can give rise to symptoms of panic attacks such as palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, chest tightness and headache.
When activated on a chronic basis by worries and anxiety, this “fight-or-flight” response contributes to palpitations, sweaty palms (or even generalized increased sweating), high blood pressure, high blood glucose, chronic headaches and a constant rushed feeling which is quite exhausting.
Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS).
There is another very important hormonal system in the body called the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS). This system helps to maintain our blood pressure.
Sympathetic nerves stimulate RAAS. Overactive sympathetic nerves due to stress cause over-stimulation of RAAS which results in high blood pressure.
3. Immune System
Lymphocytes are the principal cells of the immune system. Stress causes an increased production of cortisol, which has deleterious affects on these cells. Cortisol can kill lymphocytes, including the natural-killer (NK) cells. Remember, NK cells are important in getting rid of cancer cells naturally. In this way, stress reduces your ability to get rid of cancer cells.
Cortisol also impairs the function of the lymphocytes and increases your risk for infections.
Lymphocytes produce a number of chemicals (such as interferon, interleukins) which then get into blood circulation and have a wide range of actions on various parts of the body. It is interesting to note that some of these products of lymphocytes can stimulate the hypothalamus which ultimately leads to an increased production of cortisol. In this way, a vicious cycle sets in.
In conclusion, perhaps now you understand why the mind and body are so closely connected. They essentially work as one unit. It’s one example of the intelligence residing in your body. You are born with it. You don’t learn it in school. We could call it universal intelligence, because it is present in each and every living being.
Disruption of any part of this unit leads to a widespread dysfunction. Stress disrupts the harmonious functioning of this unit through several mechanisms, leading to a variety of clinical signs and symptoms we call diseases.
What is Stress?
You are finally home after a long day at work. It's time to relax. You ease yourself into your new sofa. Without even realizing it, soon your mind is back at work. You think about how your day went: that annoying customer; the ungrateful, greedy boss; the jealous, selfish co-worker.
Finally, your husband arrives exhausted and complaining about all of the annoyances he went through during the day. He also expresses his worries about the bleak economic future for the family.
On the answering machine, you hear a reminder about your appointment the next day with your doctor to discuss the result of your biopsy. What if the biopsy turns out to be cancerous? A wave of shivers runs through your body. In bed, you toss and turn but sleep is miles away. At 2 am, you pop some sleeping pills and manage to get four hours of sleep.
At the physician's office your biopsy report is fine, but your weight is up, blood pressure is high and your blood sugar is also borderline high. Later, on the way back to work, you can't help but think about your dad, who couldn’t walk in his old age due to a stroke caused by his high blood pressure and your mom, who lost her eyesight because of diabetes.
Suddenly, you feel your heart pounding, chest tightening, and body losing all of its strength. Next, you wake up in the emergency room at a hospital ............
The Stress of daily living has horrendous consequences. Everyone suffers from it to a certain degree. People reluctantly accept it. "This is part of life and there’s nothing you can do about it." In this way, they rationalize their stressful living.
Is it possible to be free of stress? Don't you need to fully understand stress before you can be free of it? Stress comes in many forms. For the sake of discussion, I divide stress into two types:
· Outer stress
· Inner Stress
Outer stress is what we generally refer to when we talk of stress. This is the stress due to an external factor, often out of our control, such as loss of a loved one, losing a job, missing a flight.
These are basically situations which keep happening, one after another. There are brief periods when we get some relief. You may think, “Ah! Finally I have no stress,” but before you know it, some other stressful situation arrives.
For example, after years of hard work, you finally have the ideal job you always wanted. You have a nice house, a nice car and a wonderful family. Then one day, you have a serious car accident and spend the next several weeks on crutches. Finally, you’re back at work, but find out that your company is in financial trouble. Soon, you’re laid off. Lack of a job, obviously, creates a huge stress. A few months later, your wife is diagnosed with cancer. While she’s undergoing chemotherapy, you find out you need heart bypass surgery. In the meantime, your teenager is having problems with teachers. You find yourself a frequent visitor to the principal’s office.
Another example: You finally reach the retirement that you’ve been dreaming of for years. Soon after retirement, you discover that you have prostate cancer, for which you undergo surgery. As a complication of surgery, you can no longer control your urine. A few months later, your wife falls, breaks her hip and ends up in the hospital. In the meantime, your daughter calls to let you know that she is going through a divorce and will need financial aid from you.
Well, you get the idea of the many types of outer stresses that we encounter in our lives!
Inner stress, on the other hand, is a different animal. It’s there all the time. With few exceptions, everyone is suffering from it. It stays with you wherever you go.
What is this inner stress? It’s the feeling of restlessness, agitation, emptiness, worthlessness, sadness, boredom, frustrations, annoyances, anger, hate, jealousy, guilt, fear, nervousness and anxiety.
Where does this inner stress come from? If you pay close attention, you’ll find that this inner stress comes from your own inner voice, the voice in your head that never stops even though you have nothing to solve. Often you’re completely unaware of it. It’s like your mind is on autopilot.
- You’re home after work. Now’s the time to relax, but your mind keeps replaying all that happened at work: the demanding customers, the selfish boss, the insensitive co-workers.
· You find yourself criticizing others even though you’re sitting alone.
· You’re still trying to win the argument you had with your spouse, a week ago… in your head.
· You experience a low level of irritability when there is no obvious reason for it.
· You think to yourself: “No one, even my spouse, understands me. No one really cares about me. They’re all only interested in my money.”
· You feel the urge to keep doing something, even if you’re on a vacation and supposed to be relaxing.
· You push yourself constantly, even though you have many accomplishments. You feel like you’re in the race all the time and you have to win at all costs.
· You feel dissatisfied and bored with your apparently successful life.
· You become agitated over some political or social issue. Reading a newspaper or watching the news makes you angry at the world.
· No one understands your point of view, but you think you could save the world if all the morons out there would only listen to you!
· You’re on vacation but find yourself complaining about the flight, the hotel, the food, the weather, the beach, the people, etc.
· You feel low and depressed even though you have everything going for you.
· You feel rushed and tired all the time without any medical reason for it.
· You’re afraid of losing your job, your health, your looks, your possessions, your respect, your fame, your credibility.
· You’re afraid of losing planet Earth. The destruction of mankind is looming.
· You’re afraid that you may fail as a parent or a spouse. You feel you may not be able to fulfill all responsibilities at home, at work or in society at large. You’re afraid of being a failure.
· You’re sad because you’ve been a failure in life. You have nothing to show for all your struggles to succeed.
· You’re furious because life has been so unfair to you.
· You’re furious at publishers for not accepting your wonderful manuscript.
· You’re mad at your mother, father, unfaithful spouse, insincere friends or elementary school teacher.
· You’re mad at the teenagers of today. You believe the world is coming to an end.
· You hope for a better future.
· You feel lucky to live in a particular city and a particular country and deep down, you’re afraid that one day, you may lose your paradise.
· You love your glorious past (because the present does not appear to be so good).
· You want to change the world the way you want (because you’re dissatisfied with how things are at this moment).
· You’re angry at people who look a certain way as well as those who belong to certain religions or political parties you disapprove of.
· Complaining is your favorite pastime.
· You wish the world was a better place.
· You feel frustrated you can’t kick your habits of excessive eating, smoking, drinking or shopping even though intellectually, you understand their harmfulness.
· You hear a nagging voice in your head saying you’re not good enough, you’re lazy, you’re a loser, you’ll be late again or you’ll embarrass yourself.
· You often hear these kind of nagging voices in your head: what if, what will I, what may, this should not have happened, or why didn’t this happen, why didn’t I, why did I….
· You’re mad at yourself. “How could I be so selfish, deceitful, immoral, dishonest….”
Who is this inner voice that torments you and creates all of your inner stress, even when there’s no stressful situation? If we could figure this out, if we could get to the root of it, then we could do something about it, right?