The Personal Responsibility Organization and the Identity course is all about one thing: you. Specifically, helping you appreciate yourself as a unique individual, with a specific purpose to fulfill here on Earth. We’re all here for a reason!
But what interferes with becoming the best person you can be? Stress. Or, in other words, the ups and downs of life. This blog is based on Dr. Thomas Pratt’s series of talks about stress, what it is, how it affects us, and what we can do to deal with it so it doesn’t make us sick.
The number-one searched “How to” on Google in 2015, worldwide, was “How to get rid of stress.”
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: According to the World Health Association, 90% of illness is caused by stress, while the American Academy of Family Physicians says two-thirds of doctor office visits are stress-related.
Stress, implicated in many diseases and chronic poor health, can literally be a killer. Scientists have even determined the order of conditions caused by stress: cardiovascular disease (heart attacks) is first, followed by stroke (brain attacks), and then cancer.
“One hundred years ago, we were being dying of microbes” such as tuberculosis, etc., Dr. Pratt notes. Today’s is our stress-filled lifestyles that are doing us in.
Stress management is an inside job
“Stress affects all aspects of life, that’s why it’s so important to get stress under control,” Dr. Pratt explains. “It affects our relationships, our productivity (how many people feel tired all the time?), and shrinks our tolerance levels. It robs you of your life.”
If we learn to manage stress better, we could substantially reduce or eliminate most illnesses and the extraordinary costs of healthcare. (Remember, there are “good” stressors too: graduating, marrying, having a child, being successful and getting promoted, etc.) On a personal level, improved stress management means better health, fewer costs to your family, and a better life.
“Most people don’t realize they’re stuck in ‘fight or flight’ mode,” Dr. Pratt said. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that as many as 30% of Americans suffer from anxiety, and many take medicines for it on a regular basis. But medication does not eliminate stress; it only masks the symptoms.
Hans Selye, credited with examining stress and its impact on health and well-being, viewed stress as “wear and tear” on our bodies.
The body’s “fight-or-flight” response is designed to deal with an occasional stressful situation. Unfortunately, the fast-paced stressful lives we lead trigger the response regularly. This continually elevates strong hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to levels that are harmful over time.
Effects of cortisol on the body
- Storing belly fat
- Muscle atrophy
- Bone loss
- High cholesterol, high blood pressure
- Sleep problems, include apnea
- Racing mind you can’t turn off
- Acid reflux
- Irritability as your tolerance diminishes
Too much cortisol is also being implicated in problems losing weight, while chronic inflammation is being called “the secret killer.”
“Stress reduction is the very foundation of a healthy life,” says Dr. Pratt.
The good news is, you can beat stress to be your best self. See Part II for proven strategies you can use to improve your life and your health every day.
Thomas Pratt, DC is an award-winning chiropractor who practices with Dr. Robin Bruck at Chiropractic Associates in Manchester, New Hampshire.
By Dr. Thomas Pratt with Mary Ellen Hettinger