Are you aware of the hidden costs of stress?
I’ve recently read a fascinating book by Gabor Mate called “When The Body Says No” about this very topic.
In it he looks at the effect of the mind-body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases.
Based on scientific evidence he shows how suppressed thoughts and emotions contribute to a range of chronic health conditions such as IBS and inflammatory bowel conditions, fibromyalgia, and arthritis as well as serious illnesses including cancer, Alzheimers and motor neurone disease.
Suppressed emotions and thoughts stress the body, and this chronic stress causes inflammation and suppresses the immune system – both major contributing factors in illness and dis-ease.
The books is quite the wake up call! To wake you up to allowing yourself to feel strong emotions and process them – rather then denying them and pushing them under.
The role of the mind & emotions
Related to this, I’d like to share with you a passage from my book, Peace Lies Within, which relates to this subject – how the mind and emotions contribute to stress.
Our mind can experience serenity and stillness and connection and oneness. But most of the time that is not what we’re experiencing. It’s more like mayhem and movement and disconnection and confusion.
Now part of this is down to the fact that the brain has an inherent negativity bias. It’s programmed to scan; to roam; to wander; to look out for danger. It’s programmed to keep us alive. And this leads to the mind creating ways to keep us safe.
Trouble is, when there’s no immediate danger to attend to the mind wanders off into ruminating on the past, or flits off to worrying about the future.
And these perceived ‘threats’ set off our stress response as if our lives depended on it; just as if worrying about going to the dentist or that funny look a colleague gave you are real threats to your life. And the thoughts we generate about ourselves, such as not feeling good enough or loveable, produce the same stress response.
Put shortly; much of our stress and inner conflict and fear and doubt is caused by our mind.
And we need to add something else into this mix; emotions. Emotions are energy in motion within us; those physical sensations we feel in our body that arise from the circumstances we’re experiencing and the thoughts we’re thinking.
Strong emotions also contribute to a feeling that we’re at the mercy of our inner landscape ― and strong challenging emotions such as anger, fear and doubt are very much felt by the body and contribute to feelings of stress.
So, let’s take a look at stress and why it’s something we must be aware of and address in our lives.
When you learn to tame your mind and reconnect to inner peace, you vastly reduce your stress levels!
The effects of stress
Let me put it plainly. If you’re always at the mercy of your mind, thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the world, which causes your body to be constantly operating in stress-response mode, then you will become ill.
Take it from me, I know (I wound up with stress, migraines, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome).
When you are in continual stress-mode, your immune system is suppressed, your digestive system runs poorly, and your muscles are in a constant state of hyper-vigilance getting ready to fight, run or freeze in the presence of danger.
When you’re in stress-mode your levels of cortisol are constantly raised in your body, and this disrupts all of the body’s major processes and systems and can lead to:
• weight gain
• back pain
• decreased concentration
• low libido
• impaired memory (especially short-term)
• skin complaints and poor skin healing
• menstrual abnormalities
• blood sugar dysregulation/high blood sugar
• decreased bone mineral density
• high blood pressure.
Blimey. That’s quite a list.
I don’t mean to scare you.
Scrap that. I DO mean to scare you! #sorrynotsorry It’s time to wake up.
And to do something about it.
Looking after your mind and emotions IS VITAL to your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing (if I could put this in flashing lights, I would!).
Tending to your mind and emotions is not selfish, it’s an act of love and is self-less because in caring for yourself you will have more energy, presence and compassion to show up and be there for your friends, family, and colleagues.
Because if you’re running on empty and drained, stressed and ill, you are no use to anyone!
And, you’re not honouring this precious human life you have been gifted.
I love the wisdom of Buddha on this: ‘To keep the body in good health is a duty … otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.’
So, lecture over.
Do you get it?
Learn to tame your mind and reconnect to inner peace.
Reduce your stress: for the good of yourself; your family and friends; and the whole of humanity!