How does stress cause disease? Now, I’m not going to focus on this negative stuff for long, but you need to have an understanding of this, because that’s going to help motivate you to stay on the healthier side which will then give you the vitality to enjoy your lifeachieve higher levels of productivity and deeper intimacy in your relationships.
First, stress changes our blood sugar level. We’re designed to run away from tigers, and we need lots of sugar in our blood to do that. We will crave sugar when we’re stressed because the body is trying to push more sugar into the blood so you can run away from the tiger. That’s a pretty prehistoric description of what our bodies are doing, but the design of our bodies is very, very old – well over 100,000 years old. And that essential design is what we’re working with. So even though your stress level comes from seeing your mother-in-law, or from having to stay up late six nights in a row for business parties, that body of yours is still reacting the way it would react to a tiger that you saw in the woods 50,000 years ago. So, you’re going to crave more sugar, and if you want to keep your weight regulated through the holidays, that’s something to think about. Ensuring that your blood sugar stays normalized with your stress level being lowered will help you get through the holidays with less weight gain and fewer sugar cravings.
Stress changes your blood chemistry. We know that there is a whole new medical science called psychoneuroimmunology, which is the study of psychology and psychic experience, meaning mental and perceived experience, and it’s direct effect on the immune system. This field is probably 30 years old by now. It’s a very profound field of medicine and devoted entirely to understanding how what we think, see and perceive the world has a direct effect on our nervous system and thus an effect on our immunities. And one thing we know, unequivocally, is that immunity (or your ability to fend off an illness) is going to be weakened when your stress levels are high. So you are much more likely to get sick if you are feeling emotional stress and strain.
We’re designed to feel stress and strain – that’s part of the makeup of who we are. We’re well equipped to do that. But that’s not really the problem. The problem has to do with feeling it on a consistent basis. We’re designed to feel stress and then relax. Stress and then relax. We’re not designed to have an elevated stress level that just goes on and on for days or weeks on end. That’s when we fall short and that’s when your immunity could begin to suffer.
Stress really stops us from taking good care of ourselves. It’s difficult to cross your T’s and dot your I’s, so to speak. It’s difficult to be sure that you are eating on time, that you are getting enough rest, that you are really maintaining your routine when you are under stress. Either people eat an abundance of food or they don’t eat a thing. Those patterns can be very difficult on the system, and those are emotional eating patterns. When you feel emotional you eat more or eat less as a direct result. But it’s harder to listen to what your body is telling you it wants to do. Your intuition is not as keen, not as finely tuned. And your ability to sense that you are hungry or tired or that it’s time to leave the party – those instincts don’t scream as loudly when you are stressed because your body is in shock, to a very slight degree. We’ve become immune to our own inner voice and our inner knowing of the need to take care of ourselves. And that’s a real problem. We have to be very careful because stress can support our losing track of ourselves, our inappropriate eating, and bad sleeping habits, just because we can’t hear our own lessons.
Stress creates a pattern that keeps playing even after the event that caused the original stress is over. The key is to erase the emotional memory of the original cause and the body returns to a state of relaxation. Life is multiple stress events building on one another; it takes aggressive action to treat causation rather than symptom management.