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Stress is Toxic : Positive Solutions

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Unrelenting stressors are extremely toxic. Your body translates stress into physical problems in the core of your cells. Every single disease that affects humans is either caused by or exacerbated by stressors. Fortunately, we can choose to mitigate these stressors as they occur. Life is full of stressors, learning to deal with stress in a healthy way is an essential part of living a healthy balanced and fulfilling life. Lets examine these stressors, what they do to our bodies and the solutions to stress. 

My lovely partner Megan Otto did some research on stress for a pair of college papers. Bellow I have adapted these papers into a blog posting about stress and the solutions to stress. 


Perception

The causes for stress can vary from person to person, however one indiscriminate factor that all people encounter is related to perception. Your perception is h
ow you view yourself, your situation, the world and events you encounter. Optimistic, positive perspectives and world-views reduce stress while pessimistic, negative perspectives and world-views cause stress. You can choose to see the glass half full or half empty. You have a lot of choice in how much stress you internally place on yourself through your thinking. 

Fight or Flight

All people encounter stress and the natural response for our body is the “fight or flight” response, a survival mechanism that is signaled from the brain, due to a perceived threat. The body is affected equally by real and unreal stressors, as well as external and internal stressors. Looking at a murder or rape in a movie causes mental stress the same way that seeing these events in reality causes stress. Our bodies recognize and treat stresses as threats, mounting an internal chemical fight or flight response. You can feel this happening when watching the action scene in a movie; your breathing changes and your heart beat increases, ect. The biochemical response to stress becomes toxic to our bodies when unrelenting stresses are sustained. For example repeatedly dwelling on a negative thought all day long will place your body in a constantly stressed state, where the toxic impacts of stress start to cause heart problems, gastro-intestinal problems, inflammation problems and other stress induced health problems. 

A Normal Relaxed State

Once the stress inducing threat is gone, our bodies are designed to return to a normal relaxed state. In the world we live in today many people live in a constant state of stress, so their bodies never return to normal. Over time this new high stress state becomes the "normal", but the toxic impacts of living this way begin to evolve into unsafe coping mechanisms. Drinking alcohol, abusing caffeine and smoking are the most common chemical means that people use to cope with living under constant stress. Unfortunately these are unhealthy coping mechanisms that place additional chemical stresses on the body. People can avoid this toxic lifestyle of chemical coping by making simple perspective and 
behavioral changes. By managing stress in a healthy way you can reset the stress response and reduce the negative impacts that stress has on your health, relationships and overall quality of life. By choosing to live a lower stress life  you will enjoy a healthier body and mind. 

Mental Stress

Within the psychological sciences stress is defined as “a negative emotional state occurring in response to events that are perceived as taxing or exceeding a person’s resources or ability to cope." The key word is “perceived” as Doctor Don Colbert explains in his book Deadly Emotions, “Stress is not about events and experiences nearly so much as it is about a person’s perception of the circumstances that occur in his or her life. A person’s stress level has to do with what a person believes”. Therefore one major cause that relates to everyone, regardless of what is causing the stress, is a person’s perception.

Enjoying the Present

A lot of people experience internal mental stress by dwelling on what they want or what they do not have, rather than enjoying what they already have. The truth is that most of us live incredibly blessed lives with protective infrastructure, stable food, power and water. There are people that live in developing nations that lack access to what we consider basic essentials, living in a constant state of environmental, food, and economic instability. Yet these people experience substantially less toxic internal perspective based stresses. With that said, we clearly have a choice to address the stresses caused by our perceptions. 

Raise Your Hand if You Want Something

Joyce Meyer, a well-known and respected pastor from Missouri, asked her audience in a television broadcast “Who here wants something? Raise your hand.” She went on to talk about how, when we get what we want, there will be other things to take the place of the longing. This helped me to realize I want to enjoy living in the present. By choosing to focus on the positives about my current living arrangement, my changed perspective has literally lifted stress off my shoulders. 

Biological Stress

Many people struggle with diseases and disorders that cause internal biological stresses. Joint pain, allergies, blood sugar management issues, high blood pressure, ect. These internal biological stresses can further degrade our bodies ability to return to a normal healthy relaxed state. Ironically, psychological stresses
 can worsen and even cause biological stress and disease. The inflammatory impacts of stress are directly responsible for heart diseases and arthritis. Many people can realize immediate improvements in their overall health, when they choose to embrace a more upbeat perspective by focusing on the positives in life. 


Rocks, Small Stones and Sand 
Your Life as a Jar

There is a beautiful metaphor about life. This metaphoric lesson uses a large Mason jar, stones, pebbles and sand. If you fill your jar with the sand, followed by the pebbles you will have very little room for the rocks in the end. However, if you reverse the sequence, and fill the jar beginning with the rocks, is the jar full? No, there is still room to pour the pebbles in, they trickle down between the rocks. Yet the jar still has room between the rocks and pebbles, room enough to pour the sand in and small as the sand is, it finds a path between the large rocks and pebbles. The Mason jar represents our life, the stones are the most important things in life such as faith, family and friends and taking care of oneself. The pebbles are the lesser important things followed by the trivial issues of life represented by the sand. This beautiful metaphor provokes an important question; how is your jar being filled? Life is too short to fill your jar first with the sand and pebbles because doing so results in there being little room left for the most important things in life. Stress is often like the sand and pebbles in the jar, taking up the space of the more important aspects in a person’s life.

Your Perspective Matters

It is important to remember that stress is about the perception, beliefs and reactions a person has toward the circumstances that occur in their life, more than the actual events that are experienced. We can see examples of this in how different people deal with traumatic events. People who hold a lot of hope, love and positive perspectives tend to deal with stressors more effectively. 

The power to choose a positive perspective is in the hands of every person. I choose to make the changes that are necessary to be a healthier individual by addressing the stress I encounter and changing the areas of stress that I have the ability to change. By altering my perspective and making healthy lifestyle changes I have gained the ability to reduce and in some areas eliminate stress. I believe that other people can benefit from making similar kinds of changes in their lives. 

Positive Stresses

Not all stress is equal, even positive events can act as stressors, stress in itself is not necessarily always negative. Acute stresses that are quickly resolved actually stimulate a positive biological response. As you choose to practice healthy methods of mitigating stresses, you become better at doing this, and your body becomes stronger at mounting an effective relaxation response to bring you back to normal. You can develop a positive behavior pattern to quickly dismiss stresses and enjoy a more positive life. Think of that "road rage driver" reacting irrationally to everything: they are making a choice to drive that way: to think like that. While some people are "set off" by bad drivers, other people find irrational stress which arises from arguments and disagreements. The symptoms of stress can be seen in almost any toxic behavioral patterns. F
inding healthy ways to deal with stress successfully can make all the difference in a person’s life. 

Solutions to Stress


Author Charlotte Gerson emphasizes relaxation techniques, yoga, breathing exercises, and counseling help in combination with optimum nutrition to reprogram a person’s spontaneous, deeply damaging reactions to life’s inevitable turmoil. You have a choice in how you choose to react or respond to events in life.

Second Order Observation

The next time you feel yourself getting worked up and bent out of shape, stop talking, step back in your mind and observe yourself. This is called the second order observer. Feel and observe your reactions. Stepping back in your mind and observing your reactions to stimuli can seriously reset your perspective on anything. For example, we can just breeze through a meal and eat everything quickly or we can eat thoughtfully, stepping back in our minds to focus on the experience of eating, enjoying every flavor and how the food sweeps across mouth producing textures and sensations.   There is a huge difference between reacting or responding to life events and circumstances.

Deadly Emotions

Dr. Colbert, in his book Deadly Emotions, focuses primarily on the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of stress and overcoming stress. Negative emotions are stressors and so are negative ideas. Feeling hopeless, purposeless, abandoned, neglected: these aspects of unhealthy spirituality can also be stressors. Remember that God is Love. Gods grace and mercy is infinit. He loves each and every one of us, and only wants to help us if we turn to God for answers. Many people have revolutionized their life with positive love by turning to a life of living in a relationship with God and his beautiful Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

A Holistic Approach

In Discovering Psychology, the authors suggest avoiding or reducing the use of stimulants,   regular exercise, proper sleep, and relaxation techniques to minimize the effects of stress. 


As an Environmental Scientist, I believe the solutions to stressors include personal choices and finding balance in life; through a combination of exercise, quality sleep, meditation, prayer, deep breathing, a healthy diet and limited consumption of animal products. Common exposure to toxic synthetic chemicals in cleaning products, yard chemicals and personal hygiene products must also be avoided. This is important because if the body is under constant stress, it becomes unable to develop a defense mechanism to effectively mitigate the negative impacts of stress.

Its Working For Me

I began a mostly organic, vegan approach to eating earlier this year, and have felt an improvement in my mental and physical health as a result. I already avoid toxic chemical exposure to cleaning products, yard chemicals and personal hygiene products. I can and will continue to further reduce my stress levels through changing my perspectives and responses to my various life circumstances and events. I have found success through my faith, prayer, meditation, regular exercise, proper sleep and relaxation techniques such as listening to instrumental music and deep breathing.

I have been able to find a healthy solution for my stress, by reducing and in some cases eliminating stressors through these helpful, healthy methods. It is apparent that stress has many layers, causes and has a negative net impact on the health and life of people. Every person is unique with varying degrees of biological, psychological and environmental strengths and weaknesses to stress. A holistic, multifaceted lifestyle change and individually tailored approaches are necessary so that multiple stresses can be effectively addressed. 

The power to choose a positive, healthy approach to coping with, reducing, and in some cases eliminating stress is in the hands of every person. The truth sets people free to make positive, healthy choices.

Works Cited 

Colbert, Don. Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection that Can Heal or Destroy You. Nashville: Tomas Nelson. 2003. Print.

Gerson, Charlotte. And Beata Bishop. Healing The Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases. Ann Arbor: Sheridan Books, 2010. Print.

Schwarz, Aaron. Personal Interview. 1 May 2012 & 9 June 2012.

Hockenbury, Don H. and Sandra E. Discovering Psychology. 5th ed. New York: Worth, 2011. Print.

“Stress Assessment”. Mayo Clinic 1. 18 June 2010. Web. 4 May 2012.

“Stress Basics”. Mayo Clinic 2. 19 Mar. 2011. Web. 4 May 2012.

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