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Stress has become the ‘IT’ word of the century. Stress reduction, stress
management, adrenal exhaustion or chronic fatigue syndrome – it seems
like everyone is stressed. Many illnesses and diseases are brought on by
stress or at the very least, recovery or healing is impeded by stress. We
are told that families are breaking down under stress and that many
accidents are caused by stress. Anxiety attacks, phobias and depression
are often stress related.

Heart disease, strokes, cancers, chronic fatigue, allergies, high blood
pressure and headaches are just a few of the commonly listed complaints
that may originate from stress. It is now widely believed and well
researched that almost all disease and illness has a stress related
component.

Because the word stress has become so overused we appear to be
indifferent to it, or perhaps we don’t fully understand the meaning of what
it is or how its effects relate to our health (both mental and physical).

Let’s first look at stress as a good thing. It is like a fire alarm within your
body. When a fire alarm goes off, you immediately stop what you are
doing and your awareness becomes focused on danger. Your full
attention goes to:

Confirming if the fire exists,
Protecting yourself and your property,
Alerting others to the danger and
Preparing to run or fight.

Stress is like the body’s alarm bell. If you are in danger, your stress
reaction not only demands attention, but actually shuts down some of
your bodily functions while speeding up or activating other more urgently
needed ones.

When you are under stress your heart will pump hard and fast in
preparation for greater physical exertion, and your muscles will tighten to
protect you from being hurt or prepare you to attack or run. Many
chemicals will flood your body and most bodily functions that are not a
matter of life or death will be slowed down or interrupted.
This is fantastic, as you become super powerful and super alert.

Many people who experience a traumatic event such as a car accident
have no memory of it. Often before a car crashes the mind and body are
so focused on the danger, that the mind goes completely into automatic
pilot and rarely do people remember the actual impact.

You may have heard of or experienced ‘going into shock’. This is another
example of how the mind completely blocks out everything and behaviour
becomes unconscious and automatic. You may not remember a trauma
for hours, days, or even longer, as your mind sorts and gathers the
information to protect you from such an overload.

Stress protects you. In the appropriate situation, it is a wonderful and
amazing thing.
Stress can also be found in happy events; the birth of a child, a new job,
a wedding, holidays, or moving house. If you need to sing or speak in
public, you may also experience stress. Stress in these situations can be
very helpful as it brings about a heightened mental alertness and
increased energy. Appropriate stress is a good thing; it simply means
that your reserve tank is being used for emergency purposes.

Going back to the fire alarm analogy you might imagine a city hospital.
Within the hospital are hundreds of staff members, patients, and visitors.
The purpose of a hospital is to save lives, so you may consider the
doctors, nurses, and anaesthesiologists as the most important people.
However, within the system you also have cleaners, administrators,
orderlies, etc. The efficiency of the hospital relies on all of these systems
working together.

Now imagine if the hospital’s fire alarm sounded every day for a month.
Every time the alarm rings all tasks stop and everyone needs to leave
the building. Things like cleaning, office work and meal preparation would
become very unimportant as everyone's attention would be directed to
the safety of the patients.

By the end of the month, the whole system would be in disarray.
Hopefully, no lives would be lost and the priorities within the hospital met,
but imagine the impact on the overall efficiency of the hospital.

Another outcome from this false alarm and its repetition would be that the
staff would become complacent about the alarm. After so many false
alarms, you would find that the staff would be less reactive and perhaps
get to the point where they simply ignored future alarm bells. Certainly,
they would not be as responsive as they were weeks earlier. In effect, the
alarm is the same, the danger is the same, but the reaction has changed.

This is how stress works within our body. Initially, the body will take
energy from the less urgent bodily functions and increase energy to the
more urgent ones. If this is continued over a period of time, those less
urgent, but very necessary functions become greatly affected. The
snowball effect of this is that ultimately, the entire body becomes
exhausted, allowing disease and illness to take hold.

We eventually get to the point where we no longer listen to the warnings
or become indifferent to the stress. Many people live with extreme stress
every day, but no longer recognize or respond to it.

These people feel normal because the stress has become a habit.


Obvious Stress

Obvious stress is easily recognized. Your heart pounds hard and fast, it
is hard to breathe, your hands are sweaty or cold, your body feels frozen
or your voice may sound higher than normal.

Examples of Obvious Stress are:

Lying alone in the dark at night and hearing footsteps outside your
bedroom door,
Realizing that your brakes have failed as you approach a red light on the
freeway or,
Having a dentist’s drill touch a nerve in your tooth.

Most of us can cope with obvious stress which is usually over in a short
period of time. It's like having a big brother and a gang of his mates
stepping in to get you out of trouble. Appropriate stress gives you super
strength and heightened alertness. When the danger has passed, you
will feel tired, you may feel shaky and angry, but then you'll calm down
and return to normal.

Prolonged Stress

If stress is left unchecked, it will eat away at you over time and will
certainly become a problem. Prolonged stress is stress that you don't
take care of as soon as you should.

Examples of Prolonged Stress are:

Living in a dysfunctional home,
Working in a job you hate,
Long-term illness or pain, or
Constant noise.

Silent but Deadly Stress

Fear and Worry are the most insidious and constant forms of stress.
The most important thing to know about them is, that to your sub-
conscious mind the fears are real.

When you are deep in thought, your mind is processing information
visually and emotionally. The sub-conscious merely records and files
information. If same or similar information keeps coming in, the brain will
consider this information to be important. It may also consider it to be
true.

The mind will create emotional or physical reactions to information. Take
as an example when you are watching a thriller or horror movie. Your
conscious mind knows it’s a movie, but your sub-conscious does not.
Your heart begins to pound, your breathing becomes fast or shallow, and
you may experience goose-bumps or even scream. This is because your
mind is processing this information as if it were real.

Watching an erotic movie can bring about a physical sexual response.
Hearing a song on the radio can bring you to tears as you remember an
old friend or lover.

These examples show how fear and worry will have you believing that
imagined events are real. How often are you putting your emotions and
physical responses into living and experiencing things that are not really
happening?

When you lie in bed at night worrying about bills and debt, your
emotional world is actually living in poverty.

When the kids are out on a Saturday night, you may be emotionally
reacting to fears of them being involved in an accident.

When your headache is imagined as a brain tumour, you are emotionally
living through this belief as if it were real.

Your mind is constantly processing all of your fears and worries and
believing them to be true. Under obvious stress our bodies release
adrenalin, cortisol and other hormones and chemicals. By imagining
danger, your body may also release these chemicals.

Stress also interferes with your immune system, increases cholesterol
production and free radical damage, raises blood pressure, and reduces
breathing. The thoughts are imagined, but the emotional and physical
responses are real.

The interesting things about fear and worry are our ability to exaggerate
and expand them. We rarely exaggerate and expand good things, yet at
the slightest suggestion of something negative, off we go!

Consider this: Someone at your office mentions that they have heard a
rumour that there may be staff cutbacks. You go back to your desk and
start thinking, “I bet it’s me”. You imagine telling your husband and kids
that you have lost your job. You imagine getting behind in the mortgage
and losing your home. You imagine your marriage suffering and taking
the kids out of school. Your mind starts up a conversation with your
husband and you’re totally lost in an argument inside your head.

Your mind then shifts to a new argument with your boss. Boy, are you
telling him what you really think!

By lunchtime, you are sitting with a friend and spending the entire hour
discussing your impending dismissal and the hardships ahead. Your
shoulders are tight, you cannot eat and you have a headache. You
decide to storm back into the office and quit.

Luckily, the person who started the rumour catches you at the door and
lets you know that the rumour is untrue.

This is an example of how we exaggerate and expand negativity. It is also
an illustration of your sub-conscious mind producing emotional and
physical responses to fear and worry. Your body and behaviour will react
to what the mind believes.

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How Fear, Worry and Obsessive Negative Thoughts destroy your
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