Stress Reduction to Prevent Disease – Part 1
Stress drains you from the inside, robbing your energy and vitality. Stress leads to fatigue and will silently sabotage even the strongest motivation. Do everything right— everything—and chronic stress can crash it all down!
Even a few minutes of focused stress reduction every day is a powerful way to prevent disease and accelerate your regeneration.
I’m going to show you how to not only reduce your chronic stress, but also how to avoid most of it.
Chronic Stress Accelerates Aging and Makes You Sick
Just like exercise, emotion signals your cells to grow strong or weak. The same molecular pathways go to work for you or against you. Stress, hostility and loneliness starve your cells and put them in danger. However, optimism and love trigger growth. Like deciding to exercise, you can pretty much master your emotions. It’s a choice.
Consider this: people who feel more stressed have telomeres that are almost 50% shorter than those of people who say they are less stressed. This equates to a whopping 9-17 year difference in biological age!
How much stress do you experience during the average day? Chronic stress kills, you know. It kills by:
- Weakening your immune system
- Disrupting your digestive system
- Causing heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s and more
In fact, 80% of all doctor visits in the U.S. are related to stress-induced conditions, and 90% of all diseases are caused or complicated by stress. In addition to the above, these stress-indued conditions include:
- High blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Food allergies
- And obesity
Cortisol, the main stress hormone, even causes your lean muscle to break down while increasing the storage of fat. Want to be a lean energy machine? Then learn to relax. Stress can affect every one of the trillions of cells in your body. In essence, chronic stress accelerates aging and makes you sick. Why do everything else right, only to lose it all to stress?
How to Monitor Your Stress
I have concluded there is one overriding cause of stress. In fact, it may be the only cause. In one word, it’s “reaction.”
Reaction to workplace pressures is the most common source of stress. Gallup reports 80% of employees suffer from stress. And stressed-out employees suffer from two to three times as much work injury as their non-stressed counterparts.
Most stress is caused by changes in your life and the sense of being out of control. Being out of control is usually caused by being in this reactionary mode, letting external events or other people control your actions, rather than your actions determining the external events in your life. Most of us feel stressed much of the time due to these two factors.
Some ways around this are to monitor your stress.
- List all your daily events. Then decide which ones are truly important to you and which aren’t. Then act on those that are important.
- Do you tend to react to things that seem urgent at the expense of ignoring or procrastinating on those that are important?
- Your key is purposeful action and avoiding procrastination. When you procrastinate, your events control you.
You probably know what thoughts and actions advance you forward in life. I trust you know what specific action or actions energize you and are most productive for you.
- What are you best at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- Know these answers.
Focus on those related activities, and you will cut 90% of the stress out of your life. In other words, get “proactive.” Take control of your life one day at a time.
Is that how you manage most of your average day? Probably not. If you do, congratulations! But if you’re like me, you’re constantly faced with interruptions and distractions: phone calls, emails, family emergencies, arguments, mail, traffic jams, unexpected guests, financial problems, tax issues, bill paying, other peoples’ agendas, etc, etc, etc.
Chronic stress is often these continual minor stressors over an extended period of time. The cumulative effect slowly erodes your body over time at your cellular level if you don’t make a conscious effort to let your body recover.
2 Habits for Happiness
So how do you keep this insidious killer from robbing you of your health, happiness and prosperity?
It’s actually very simple. Plan your days in advance.
- Fill your schedule with positive uplifting actions that move you toward your goals.
- Go back a few weeks in your calendar, and list all your counterproductive reactionary items.
- Do the same moving forward for the next two weeks.
- Every time you react to something, and every time you feel stress, write it down.
- Write down what you hate doing, as well.
- Then group these items and hand them off. Delegate them. Outsource them. Or just ignore the ones that won’t damage you if they don’t get done.
Second, work in peace, quiet and privacy.
- Shut distractions out during designated chunks of your work day.
- Turn off your phone and email during these periods.
- Close your door, and leave specific instructions to not bother you except in extreme emergencies such as a medical crisis or anything else that is absolutely life, family or business threatening.
- Start in small steps and work your way up until you completely control most of your work day.
Once you master these habits, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do so years ago. Your business and personal life will prosper like never before. And you’ll live longer.
(By the way, I was interrupted twice while writing this section, because I am not behind a closed door. Being distracted and then trying to refocus doubled the time it should have taken me to write this. I’m writing this book to myself as much as to you. So I need to keep reminding myself, over and over. The rewards far outweigh the effort.)
Even productive living creates stressful situations. As long as you’re in action, you will always have some stress in your life. Self-imposed deadlines, major changes in your life and others can create stress.
How to Make Stress Reduction a Priority
We simply don’t grow without stress. Some stress is good for you. It evolved as a survival mechanism. Without it, we don’t adapt and become strong. It gives you a rush of adrenalin when you’re faced with a sudden life-threatening situation. You react faster, often without even thinking. Your strength can suddenly double for an instant.
What kills you is not adapting to the chronic stresses of life. Now that we’re civilized (at least technologically), we seldom face life-threatening events. However, modern life puts other pressures on you. Instead of being attacked by a wild animal, escaping and then relaxing for a week, we get stressed by the multiple processes of living in a complex world. And this stress doesn’t end as fast as it occurred. Stressful situations may stay with us for days, weeks and even years. Or they may pop up one after another. They can make us feel as helpless as babies. Sometimes they spin our lives out of control. They all cause our stress system to activate. The system designed to help us in an emergency becomes dangerous to our health if it runs all the time.
Physical and emotional stress causes the release of cortisol and catecholamines (adrenaline and nor-adrenaline), hormones that keep the body performing under high stress situations. As I mentioned, these hormones are good in short bursts, such as in emergency situations, but damaging after long periods of exposure.
- Memory loss
- Immune system inhibition
- Endocrine system disruption
- Increased free radical production
- Chronic increased blood pressure
- Chronic increased heart rate
This chronic stress is what kills us instead of saving us. So we need to make stress reduction and relaxation a priority in our lives if our plans are peace, health and longevity. The good news is it’s not hard to do.
All you need to do is stop and get off the horse once in a while. Relaxation is not only fun and easy, but it will extend your life and help keep you from getting sick.
Focus and intentional practice are much more effective than passive relaxation. You might practice:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Creative visualization
- Listening to soothing sounds such as nature sounds or relaxing music
- Soaking in a tub
- Tai chi
There are many other stress busters out there. The more stress management tools you learn and use regularly, the happier and healthier you’ll be. Stress management can measurably reverse much of the stress-induced damage very quickly. You can even restore over-taxed immune systems in ninety days or less. Best of all, your benefits accumulate. The longer you practice stress management techniques, the healthier you become.
You are responsible for much of the emotional stress placed on your body. If you perceive a situation as stressful, your body will react. If you can manage difficult situations without overreacting, you save your body from unnecessary chemical damage.
To read the 2nd half of this article, Stress Reduction to Prevent Disease – Part 2, click HERE.