Stress is related to perceiving life as manageable or unmanageable. Circumstances present problems or challenges—depending on our perspective. Up close, the earth looks flat; from outer space, it’s round. The difference is in the perspective. Similarly, without our being mindful of what is happening, we are creating our own perception of reality that often leads to stress.
Anticipation or anxiety can lead to stress. The human mind is so powerful, the connection between perception and physiological response so strong, that we can send off the flight or fight response by merely imagining ourselves in a threatening situation. This ability can be a source of power or an invitation to illness.
When I asked my family physician, “What are the effects of stress on the body?” I received the following response: “Everything—including headaches, insomnia, heart disease, ulcers, depression, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and many others.” In addition, stress can unbalance the autonomic nervous system, leading to disturbances in digestion, circulation, and all other internal functions. Stress can weaken and damage the body’s immune responses and can bring about autoimmune diseases that attack the body’s healthy tissues. Stress has not only been shown to worsen conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis but also fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. A growing body of evidence points to stress as a contributing factor as to whether these develop in the first place because stress damages neurons in the brain.
Healing of the body can be frustrated by habitual ineffective ways of using the mind. Using the mind properly can be a significant contributing force to healing. Ailments we typically think of as bodily can be improved by thought alone because the mental realm is often the locus of cause for many illnesses. A quick proof of this is the disappearance or non-existence of headaches when on vacation.
Stress makes us feel bad all over. It increases irritability and everyday activities become chores. We begin avoiding our usual activities—even things we enjoy. Stress also prompts us to make unsound, unwise decisions, including those that directly affect our finances and our jobs. It impinges on our appetites, having us feel like either eating too much or not enough. Sometimes we even begin to neglect our physical appearance.
You can change your level of stress by simply changing your perception of the situation. Throughout this website I share some strategies to do this. Of course, like anything in life, there is one condition. To be successful, it is necessary to commit to practicing each strategy. Only then will your perception change and you will experience true stress reduction.