Stress! Its moving up in the ranks of crippling diseases. We’re all afflicted with it. There’s no cure on the horizon, in fact, its self-perpetuating. Just thinking about the amount of stress you’ll probably have tomorrow, adds to your tension. But something must be done about it! I don’t want to stress you out with statistics, so I won’t tell you that half the men in America will eventually die of a heart attack. A major contributing factor is cholesterol, so you’ve been watching what you eat, but look out, stress affects cholesterol levels ten times more than dietary factors do.
Calm down, you’re looking a little nervous, there. Its not all that bleak. All this stress is stressing you out, but thats no reason to fly off the handle. There is hope. No, not hope in eliminating stress, are you kidding me? But there is still a way to beat it…. join it!
I know you’ve heard this one:: “It’s not what happens to you that counts, its what you do with what happens to you.” Could it also be true: “Its not the amount of stress that kills you, but how you feel about the stress.”? When you look at all the different reasons we feel stressed, and the great variety of emotions it dredges up, you can see that there is a lot of decision making involved in how much physical damage it ends up doing. Those decisions are the key to succeed or succumb. For example:
Five minutes before giving his quarterly report to the trustees, the young executive discovers his notes are missing. His heart rate immediately skyrockets and he ages six months in the next six minutes. His chances for early death by heart failure have increased ever so slightly. Across town, a man is playing his best game of tennis ever. His heart rate is shooting up too. In fact, the stress on his body is indistinguishable from that of the young executive’s. But the tennis player is enjoying his stress. The harder he works and the more pain it causes, the better he feels. Both men are going through the same chemical processes involving hormones and neurons, but their response to it is completely different, and so are the physical effects.
That example is probably no grand revelation but what if you could enjoy the stress of your job, your relationships, your finances, etc., as you would enjoy the stress of working out, reeling in a bass, or even saving someone from drowning? It isn’t the stress that happens to us that counts, its what we feel about the stress that happens to us!
It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and some of the weirdos in this particular world live for stress, get off on it, and then go after even more stress. Pressure is a word more commonly used in place of stress. “Oh, he lives for the pressure.” is a typical compliment for that intense corporate manager, or the winning college football coach, or any school teacher. Some of us would like to get away from it all, but these folks would go crazy with the stress of having nothing to do for a couple days.
The funny thing is, the pressures are less likely to produce ulcers or heart failures for people who are stress-friendly. The adrenaline rush of deadlines, impossible missions, and formidable adversaries, has a rejuvenating effect. Can you imagine your worst day at work being equal to your best day at racquetball? It really depends on your attitude. Its possible that stress is falsely accused of taking us down when the real culprit is fear. It may not be a sense of difficulty that weakens us, but a sense of hopelessness. Let’s look at those two ideas in detail.
Its no longer just the bible that states, “In those days men’s hearts will fail them for fear.” it’s a medical statistic. Fear is being recognized as a cause and an aggravator of disease. The emotions are capable of causing physical manifestations. When a person finds out they have a disease, the condition immediately deteriorates. Why? The fear factor weakens the immune system and seems to encourage the advance of the condition. On the other side, if a victim is told that a treatment or remedy has just been proven to eliminate their condition, they start improving before they receive the treatment.
We can witness the process of thoughts becoming a physical entity every time we feel fear. We could not experience the adrenaline rush of fear without the chemical, adrenaline. A physical molecule, adrenaline courses through our blood to trigger the feeling of fear. Without adrenaline, the discomfort in the pit of our stomach would be impossible. However, the moment before we hear the gun shot, or the canine growl, or find out that mother-in-law is paying a visit, there is no adrenaline stored in the body. The chemical is manufactured in the microsecond between stimulus and reaction. The notion that we were in danger created a molecule that provided the defense alert. All emotions are experienced this way. For each specific feeling, there’s a specific chemical that is manufactured by a gland in the brain and secreted into the blood stream to communicate that particular sensation.
How we react to situations and conditions is founded in our own beliefs and the beliefs of all our ancestors. Our personal history and the whole history of man have a part in what we consider fearful, dangerous, exciting, aggravating, and so on. Some fears grow slowly like a small fire fed by twigs of impending doom. Others happen faster than a conscious decision to feel afraid. Either way, the resulting emotion is dictated by instinct or beliefs. It could be a thought we had a moment before, or thoughts imbedded ten thousand years ago, and still lying dormant in our psyche waiting to be resurrected.
Though we can’t stop the initial defensive action, we can practice acknowledging it for what it is and make a healthy response to it. Such as, “I realize this fear is my security system which was installed before the first mountain lion snarled outside my cave. I will calmly evaluate the situation and act appropriately.” Give it lots of time. Over-worn habitual reactions are strongly rooted, but keep at it. Repeated conscious involvement rather than mindless capitulation will gradually shorten the time between alerts and the moment we take control of the situation. Control meaning – I will not fear. I’ll accept this challenge and it will not harm me. Well, if it may indeed harm you, fear isn’t going to help anyway. Every day humans stress about 1000 things that never happen. You can expect a longer life of contentment by not worrying in advance.