is Stress, from a Holistic Perspective
| Next | Contents
is the body's nonspecific response to positive or negative stressors.
Stress is different things to different people, and is also different
for the same person at different times in their life. What is
stressful to us at age fourteen is different than what is stressful
to us at age twenty-four. Stressors for a sixteen year old single
mother can be quite different from the things that are stressful
to a sixty-year-old woman.
body's reaction to stress is the "fight or flight" response.
This response can be like revving up a car and not going any where.
If it happens too often, you can burn out the engine. There are
specific physiological reactions that occur in our bodies as a
result of exposure to stressful situations. Adrenaline is secreted,
respiration increases, our extremities (hands and feet) get cold,
our blood moves quicker, our heart races, our muscles tense up,
our sugar levels increase, our blood vessels constrict and digestion
is slowed. If this "fight or flight" response happens
too often, it is easy to understand how ‘burn-out' follows.
is the process by which the body restores balance to itself. If
we are exposed to too many stressors, then this process will not
be able to keep up and unwellness and eventually dis-ease can
set in. Homeostasis is like an built-in thermostat that regulates
our body's physiology to be in perfect balance for us. We all
have a ‘normal', individual level of arousal. Homeostasis,
when we have stress under control, returns our arousal level to
‘normal.' What is ‘normal' is unique for each individual,
but the process of balance is the same. This is part of the body's
natural ability to heal itself. When out of wack, homeostasis
does not return our arousal levels to ‘normal.' The body
can then not heal itself efficiently, leaving the open door for
dis-ease. Each of us is striving to reach a zero or normal arousal
is also our mental/emotional and spiritual connection to stress.
Mentally, we can handle things in an empowering manner creating
good feelings about ourselves or we can perceive the world as
being against us, disempowering ourselves and creating bad feelings
about ourselves and our world. Our mental/emotional outlook will
affect the impact of our stress. It is at this level where we
decide to take responsibility for how we handle stressors that
affect our life. It is where we decide to do what feels right
or not. Some modern therapists believe that our spiritual outlook
can have a direct impact on us physically and mentally/emotionally.
are therefore three fronts on which to tackle stress management
in one's life: physically, mentally/emotionally and spiritually.
To respond in an empowering, responsible and an integral manner,
we must look at how stress affects us on these three levels and
how we respond to stressors body, mind/heart, and spirit.
There is a good deal that happens physically when we are exposed
to stress. If the body is continually bombarded with stressful
situations and physically responds with the "fight or flight"
response, then it is easy to see how the body can burn out. Dis-ease
and stress can be highly interrelated. In today's modern world,
there are environmental stressors that we were simply not exposed
to even twenty years ago. Modern life has brought with it"s
convenience, materialism and expansive schooling, side effects
that bombard us physically every day. Some examples of modern
stressors are: car fumes, chemicals in our water, food and air,
acid rain, pesticides, perfumes, scents or improper diet. Modern
stressors affect us physically in an insidious way. We may simply
feel unwell, slightly nauseous, muscle aches, weak memory, but
nothing that is diagnosable by our family doctor.
stressors are just always there and our bodies are continually
going through the "fight or flight" response. Each of
us reacts to these constant stressors in different ways. Some
develop chronic fatigue syndrome, sick building syndrome or even
depression. Some are affected in minimal ways that don't show
Simply speaking, the immune system attacks any foreign substance
in the body and quietly protects us from these invaders. As the
immune system relates to stress, it is sensitive to adrenal hormones.
Therefore, when our body's go into the "fight or flight"
response and adrenaline is secreted, our immune system is taxed.
When our immune system is over worked, whether from dealing with
chronic stress or from genetic factors or lack of spiritual nourishment,
we are vulnerable to a large variety of diseases from allergies
to cancer. Our immune system is our body's way of defending itself
from germs, distress and dis-ease.
Total Load Theory:
In addition to modern stressors, which insidiously and continually
erode our immune system, we may also be exposed to direct physically
stressors. A car accident, an inherited disease, a sports injury,
a cold, can all affect our body's ability to respond. From a holistic
perspective, we see the Total Load Theory (see "Free to Fly"
for a detailed description) come into play. It is our immune system
that mainly responds to stressors and our immune system can only
take so much. The Total Load Theory holds that when our immune
system is taxed to the fullest, then dis-ease can set in.
Some responses to physical stressors are within our control and
some are not. For example, if we attend school or go to work in
a building that gives us sick building syndrome, we may not be
able to change that. We can, however, decide to respond to the
situation in a pro-active way by taking herbs, avoiding scents,
avoiding parts of the building that are worse for us, drinking
lots of spring water and whatever other strategies may help reduce
the symptoms the building gives you. We may have to only attend
half days. Mentally, we decide to either cope with the situation,
face the challenge or let the situation tale control of us, spiritually
demoralizing us. This decision will be driven by your spiritual
sense of responsibility and will be in direct relation to your
emotional well being. If you decide that things are totally beyond
your control, then it follows that you will feel depressed, down
in the dumps, and disempowered.
thoughts can foster hope or doom, resulting in feelings of upliftment
or sadness. We choose how we react to all situations.
are a result of thought.: A+B=C
A = activating event (often this can be outside our control)
B = belief (our beliefs form our thoughts and our thoughts lead
to our emotions)
C = consequences (our behaviours that result from our beliefs
> thoughts > emotions)
positive or negative, self-talk colours our actions and decisions.
Deepak Chopra through quantum physics and aryuvedi medicine (an
Eastern Indian philosophy of medicine that incorporates body,
mind/heart and spirit) explains that our thoughts which lead to
our emotions affect us physically. Each thought and consequenting
emotion is received by every cell of the body. Hormones are then
released in response to each thought, taxing our immune system.
perceived to be positive and acceptable are generally released
through expression, alleviating any stress on our immune system.
Emotions perceived as negative and unacceptable are generally
stored, leading to chronic stress on our immune system.
age two, our emotional patterns begin to develop. Throughout life,
each time we are exposed to new emotions we develop a response
pattern based on our experience whether healthy or unhealthy.
To change unhealthy emotional response patterns we have to change
the way we think.
key to changing the way we think/feel is to break the habits that
were created at earlier developmental stages. Our responses need
to be in tune with our current progression. If our beliefs are
our-dated, so to will our habitual responses be out of date. If
our beliefs are conflicted, then we may experience chronic tension
which will reflect where in our bodies. Prolonged tension can
also lead to distorted thinking.
patterns give us a healthy control over our lives. Negative patterns
give us an unhealthy control. We choose how to handle things when
we are overloaded. We may choose depression, drug or alcohol abuse,
or illness as a means of controlling too much stress in our lives.
The stress is temporally relieved, but new stress usually follows.
Our ability to make responsible choices will depend on how spiritually
evolved we are. Whether you nurture your sense of spirituality
at home, with friends, or at church, your ability to make wise
choices or unwise choices, rests within your spiritual capacity.
Your sense of spirituality can foster hope and optimism that will
in turn positively affect your body and mind/heart. If you have
a terminal disease, a highly developed sense of spirituality can
greatly affects how you think and feel about life after death.
A good feeling about what will happen to you after this life will
certainly ease the pain and discomfort involved in leaving this
we have to accept life's challenges as ours, and not as the problem
of someone or something else. Blame has no role for the spiritually
responsible person. To deal with our personal challenges we must
first accept them as ours. Too often it seems easier to avoid
developing solutions and blame others.
often the spiritual road can be challenging. Following a life
that is spiritually in tune, means that our soul is at ease with
our motives. We create our own life journey through right or wrong
action, through treating others with love and respect. The first
step to spiritually handling stress is to take ownership of our
life's journey and it's challenges, and then to do things in a
loving manner because it is right to do so, not because we are
afraid if we don't do so.
| Next | Contents