How Stress Can Knock the Health Out of You!

By Dr. Jack Singer

Robert Sapolsky in his wonderful book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” said it best: “A critical shift in medicine has been the recognition that many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made far worse by stress.

Accordingly, a wealth of research has surfaced over the past 30 years showing clear relationships between stress and major diseases, including asthma, back and neck pain, various cancers, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, GI disorders and a variety of headaches.

The Mind-Body Relationship

Our bodies have been hot wired genetically to deal with stressors involved in perceived physical danger, since we lived in caves. Seeing a saber-toothed tiger lurking outside of ones’ cave automatically sets off the “fight-flight-freeze” nervous system, which begins a chain of physiological reactions directed at protecting the internal organs and preparing the body to escape the danger.

This is all well and good, except that to be completely efficient, this “fight-flight-freeze” reaction harnesses all of the energy in the body and shuts down many systems that are not necessary for immediate survival, while this nervous system is pressed into action. Critically, one of those systems is the immune system. Most danger can be dealt with in a matter of a few minutes, after which the body resumes normal functioning, much like a zebra goes back to calmly grazing after escaping a stalking lion.

So, shutting down the immune system for a few minutes while someone deals with a dangerous situation, is not a problem. The problem for we humans in the 21st Century is that we are worriers, and each time we worry, the fight-flight-freeze system switches on, so if one is often worried, stressed, and anxious, her/his immune system is continually shutting off, making the onset of disease highly likely.

This is why learning stress mastery skills reverses the process and keeps the immune system strong and efficient.

In my own 33- year practice as a Clinical Psychologist, using a combination of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, without medication, I have resolved symptoms of irritable bowel, headaches, hypertension, and even bulging back discs and cancer! The power of the mind over every system in the body is truly amazing.

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