August 2014

About Stress

Stress: What is it and How Can It Be Eliminated?


What Is Stress?

What we usually think of as "stress" is the sensation that we feel as a result of a series of complex internal chemical reactions that occur in response to certain events and situations in our life. All animals, including humans, have evolved defensive systems that protect them from dangers that threaten their existence. One of these defensive systems is the Flight or Fight Response, otherwise known as, the Stress Mechanism. At one time or another each of us has had the experience of coming across a bird in the street when we start to move toward the bird it flies away. We might say to our self, "Why did it fly away, I wasn't going to hurt it." While we knew that our intentions were good, the bird didn't. It flew away because it perceived you as a threat. So it is with us, anything that is threat, real or imagined, will cause the release of a series of neurochemicals, the most familiar of which is adrenaline. Adrenaline triggers a chain of physiologic changes throughout the entire body. These changes are designed to prepare and protect us from danger. The nervous system, the blood (vascular) system, the heart and the blood clotting system as well as the muscular and the digestive systems are all involved. All of these responses prepare our body to either turn and run or stand and fight. Without these automatic responses we would have to think and make decisions and cause our body to be prepared. The time this would take could make the difference between life and death. Your life and your death!

"What does this all mean, today? While our ancestors may have had to fear actual threats to their life and threats to our well-being, today few of us have to worry any predator trying to kill us. Instead we may find ourselves in situations in which there is no real threat to our life or limb and we still may experience stress. For example, being late for an appointment, an argument with your boss, writing a check when you're not sure of your balance, driving the freeway, driving too fast, bills that we don't want can all be perceived by the mind-body as "potentially dangerous." Any of these can result in stress, even when there is no defined enemy. In fact, in each example given can act as an enemy. They can cause loss of self-esteem or self-value and they can interfere with our picture of the way we want our life to be. Many life situations we live in fact do act as stressors and do activate the stress mechanism. The reason for this is that our body cannot tell the difference between actual threats versus threats we perceived but are not real. The stress system will react to anything our that body/mind (and not always on a conscious level) perceives as potentially dangerous.

To make this concept simpler, we can look at stress in another way. Since we usually do not experience a direct threat to our life very often, what is threatened is our picture of the way, we think or believe our life should be. With this concept in mind we can now define stress as the difference between the way we want our life to be and the way it actually is. This means that specific events, ideas, beliefs or even our own thoughts can be ultimately perceived as threats. Hence stress can be generated, from within and cause us to experience an outward physical reaction. Fear of loss, fear of failure, of not getting something we think of as important or desire can trigger stress within us. We can also look at stress as the difference between our Ideal Image (the ideal of what we believe we and our life should be like) of our selves and the world around us, how we want ourselves and the world to be, and the way the world actually is.

For example, if you want some particular event or result to occur and it does you are likely to feel good that you got what you wanted. If, however, it does not occur, you will likely feel bad, sad or unhappy. If your inner-self interprets that not getting what you want or that or that the result you did get as a threat, then the end result may be the sensations we call anxiety. This is the basis of stress. The greater the difference between your ideal self-image and reality and the greater the perception (recognized or not) of a threat, the greater the stress reaction.

Why is it then that we might perceive an event which is not an obvious threat, as threatening? The answer is not simple but consider the following. Our defense system is always trying to protect us. It evaluates everything that happens to us. Every event, everything you have ever heard, seen, thought or felt is stored so that if we need this information it is available to us for our protection. During the process of growing up, from time to time events occur which are at first threatening, but later we find a solution or recognize that it is in fact, not really threatening. Later in life when something happens that initially reminds us one of these past experiences, our body/mind may initially treat it as a potential threat at least until it is sure that it is not. For example, if during at sometime in your life being late was considered wrong, if speeding when driving was considered dangerous, if heavy traffic was considered threatening then at some other time in the future "being late and driving fast through rush hour traffic to get where you were supposed to" would likely fuse together to cause tension, anxiety, fear, and consequently stress. While this, is a simplistic example this is the mechanisms most commonly involved in causing stress in our life. One could say therefore that stress is a learned behavior. We learn how to be stressed from our past experiences.


How We Can Eliminate Stress

The truth is we may not always be able to eliminate stress. Since life is filled with potential threats, stress is inevitable. If we can't always eliminate it then at best we can eliminate what we can and learn to live with what we cannot eliminate. We can also learn how to limit the damaging effects of stress. It is not possible to control stress, however, until we know what stress is, how it works and how to recognize it. To better help us recognize stress in our life, we will need to identify the early symptoms and signs of the stress reaction. Once we identify the signs and symptoms of stress we will soon be able to associate them with what types of behaviors, belief systems, world views we hold. Generally, stress is caused by allowing faulty beliefs, guilt and feelings we have sinned into our life. Another reason is working at a job that we hate or which does not fulfill us. Where we live, who we pick for our friends and who we pick as mates (sexual partners) are also important causes. While we have suggested that stress is caused by the people around us, our job, lifestyles, the fact is, that it is really caused by our attitudes and beliefs toward them. If we chose good people in our life, chose a job that supports us and one that we enjoy, live in the area and home that best supports us, in a life style that we can afford, if we pick healthy sound loving caring partner's then we will have less stress in our lives.

Stress is created by us when we create lies in our lives. By lies we mean any belief system, behavior, decision or actions that we make or allow that is not in our best interest. The more lies in our life the more stress. Ultimately to reduce stress we must create our life to work for us through the choices we make.

Often people get scared at this point because they are afraid to change. They frequently think that change is impossible, they may be fearful of the pain they believe change causes. Stress is about these feelings and their effect on our body. Stress is ultimately an intelligent act of the body making us aware that we have lies in our life and we are doing nothing about them.

While it would be nice to make it sound simple and easy to control and relieve stress, it is not. It is hard to let go of the many belief systems and habits that cause our stress. Unfortunately, we have not only become accustomed to our stress but often even addicted to it. Many individuals thrive on it, look for it and even create it when they can't find it. These people will often deny that they do this. They may blame what happens on "the other guy," or on bad luck or circumstances. To resolve stress, we must look only to ourselves. We must evaluate our life as it is. If you are feeling stressed or if you are stressed-out, take a moment and examine what may be causing your stress. Once you have done this try to determine what you can change in order to eliminate your stress. If you need help, as most people do, we would be happy to teach you what you need to know and help you to find the path to wholeness and sanity.