Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Learning how to manage emotional stress effectively. (Part I)

I am convinced that no other factor has more influence over your health. If you ask someone that has just been diagnosed with cancer, for instance, if they’ve been under stress recently they will more than likely say, “why as a matter of fact, yes!”. It's important to keep in mind cancer does not appear overnight, it is always with us, it just manifests itself from constant stress.

You may be wondering, why is emotional stress one of the most significant causes of all chronic health challenges? Well simply put, because your body cannot defend itself against the damage that emotional stress creates quietly over time. Your body pays a heavy physiological price for every single moment that you feel anxious, tense, frustrated, and angry.

I'm not suggesting that you should strive to never feel these emotions. Anxiety, tension, frustration, and anger all serve important purposes when they first arise. The danger is in experiencing these emotions on a chronic basis.

Emotional stress sets off a series of reactions in your body that involve your sympathetic nervous system, the portion of your nervous system that would increase your chance of surviving if you were to run into a mountain lion during a hike. In such a situation, your sympathetic nervous system would:
· Speed up and intensify your heart and breathing rates, so that you could have more oxygen and nutrients available to your muscles to run or fight.
· Divert the bulk of your blood supply to your large muscles groups to run or fight.
· Slow or even shut down your digestive system so as to not waste blood, nutrients, and oxygen that could be used to run or fight.
· Stimulate the release of extra glucose into your blood to give you a burst of energy, just as a cheetah's spleen gushes extra blood into its circulation when it needs a burst of acceleration.
· Cause your adrenal glands to release epinephrine and norepinephrine into your system to increase cardiac output and increase blood sugar.
· Stimulate the release of cortisol from your adrenal glands to increase blood sugar and energy.
· Increase the diameter of your pupils to allow for more light to enter your eyes and more acute vision for fighting and running quickly on any type of terrain.

Clearly, it is to your advantage to have a healthy sympathetic nervous system, one that is capable of providing all of the functions listed above during physical emergencies.

What you don't want is for your body to experience all of the above on a continuous, low-grade level because of emotional stress.

And this is exactly what many of us are suffering from in today's hectic world.

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