Written by Dr. Edward Levitan
Stress: The untold story

Stress: The untold story

Let’s talk about stress.

First let’s talk about it from the point of view of how most of us experience it on a daily basis:

  • The boss yelling at you
  • Being late to an appointment or meeting
  • Kids, spouse (need I say more?)
  • Deadlines
  • Etc…

Sound familiar?

Let’s now look at what happens within the body when stress is present.   When we have either a real or perceived stressor, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode.  Our adrenals produce a hormone called cortisol.  Abnormally high (or constantly high) levels of cortisol do things like: suppress the immune system and predispose us to cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.

This is the stuff most of us know about.  Bottom line?  Stress is not good for us and chronic stress can kill us!

Now, let’s talk about the stress that is not talked about as often.  I’ll start with the more known and go to the least known and least thought-about stressors:

  1. Food
    • Sugar and Carbs:  Eating sugar and carbs raises your blood sugar levels. This triggers the body to secrete cortisol in order to increase insulin levels, which removes the sugar from the blood that goes into the cells.
    • Over- or under-eating – again putting stress on the system. When you overeat, you overwork the digestive system and over time, your liver, pancreas, stomach, intestines and even heart can become damaged. When you under-eat, your muscles can’t repair, your metabolism slows down, and your body does not have what it needs to optimally protect against offenses such as oxidative stress, toxins and infection.
  2. Exercise
    • Too little exercise does not allow the body to process cortisol, leaving it in the body to wreak havoc.
    • Too much exercise causes too much cortisol to be produced, hence suppressing the immune system.
  3. Sleep
    • Sleep is when our body recovers and resets.  If we are chronically undersleeping or the quality of our sleep is poor, we are slowly depleting our reserves.
  4. Bowel movements
    • Are you pooping at least one time a day?  If not, you may not be removing built-up toxins and they may be re-circulating in your body.
    • Is your stool formed or loose?  Do you have to strain? Do you experience bloating after meals that gets worse as the day goes on? Do you have several food intolerances? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may have dysbiosis, or lack of balance in your gut bacteria.
  5. Breathing
    • Are you breathing?  That may seem like a dumb question, but do you know that most of us breathe into our chests?  That means we are using a very small part of our entire lung capacity.
    • Abdominal breathing – I’m not going to bore you with the details but it’s enough to know that there has been a tremendous about of research done about the health benefits of abdominal breathing.

Step by step for abdominal breathing:

  1. Sit forward comfortable in a chair, legs uncrossed.
  2. Closed your eyes if you are comfortable doing that.
  3. Put your hands right below your belly button (navel).
  4. Now, as you take a slow, deep breath in, breath into the belly so that your hands move away from your spine.
  5. As you slowly deep breathe out, your hands return to their original position.
  6. Practice counting the numbers of breaths you can take before your mind starts to wander.  Practice until you can get to 10 without your mind wondering!
  7. Enjoy the process, remember this is a skill and like any skill, initially you will not do well with it.  If you practice, you will get better and better.

Side note:  The Dalai Lama still practices every day!

And FINALLY!  The most underrated stressor:

6.  Thinking!

  • What are you thinking?  Are your thoughts serving you?  For most of us, our “self talk” (i.e. what we say about ourselves to ourselves) is mean: We would never allow someone to speak to our loved ones like the way we speak to ourselves!
  • Our internal self talk can be self-deprecating and for some of us self-loathing.  We often don’t allow ourselves the same courtesy that we would offer another human being.
  • When another human being makes a mistake, we say “that’s okay, you’re only human, lighten up.”  But if we make a mistake, we say “how could I do that!” or “what’s wrong with me?”  Instead of “wow, that was stupid” try saying “wow, I learned what not to do!”

Training our mind to speak kindly to itself is a challenge and one that is well worth mastering.  To start, practice meditation and gratitude every day.  Some people benefit from intensive seminars, others from certain types of therapy.  We all have room to grow to tame our minds!

At The UltraWellness Center, we have many ways and resources to help you walk this path.  We hope to hear from you on how we can help get you started!

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