I am excited to describe my new-found concepts of health in regards to stress survival. I adopted these learning goals for stress survival. I hope that what I share will help you too!
- Understand how the mind-body connection impacts health.
- Understand how some stress is good, but too much stress needs to be managed.
- Understand how to manage stress effectively and build resilience.
Stressful or negative emotions are a cause of disease.
Huangdi Neijing Suwen (Basic Questions of the Inner Canon of the Yellow Thearch)
I would rather know the person who has the disease, than know the disease the person has.
Stress is a series of events that begins with a stimulus (stressor), that precipitates a reaction in the brain (stress perception), that subsequently results in the activation of fight or flight systems in the body (biological stress response).
—Dhabhar & McEwen, Brain Behavior & Immunity, 11: 286.
My stress response is for my survival, and not meant to kill me.
My health is affected (biologically) by my
immune system which is affected by my
- nervous system and my
endocrine system which is affected by my
nervous system which is affected by my feeling
- social support
- nervous system which is affected by my feeling
When a car pulls into my path, it immediately increases my
- Heart rate
A similar stress response is induced by various situations requiring or admitting protection, performance, or pleasure. Examples:
- (protection need) A truck pulling into my path and blocking it while cruising down the road on a motorcycle
- (protection need) Surgery about to occur
- (performance need) Giving a speech before a large audience
- (performance need) Exercising
- (pleasure need) First kiss
- (pleasure need) Intimacy
Most research is focused on long-term (bad) stress (months to years), but it is also important to understand short-term (good) stress (minutes to hours) — rapid response followed by rapid shutdown.
A movement of cells occurs in regards to the immune effects of short-term stress. In about 10 minutes after a stressor, my immune cells are flowing through blood vessels to needed areas. These cells also have more fire-power following a short-term stress than with long-term stresses.
- ↓ protective immunity
- ↓ motivation, creativity
- ↓ efficiency, productivity
- ↑ inflammation and biological aging (bad immune responses)
- ↑ susceptibility to infection, cancer, heart disease, etc.
- ↑ anxiety, fear, depression, anger, aggression
- ↑ healthcare expenses
- ↑ time lost from work
Good stress must be sharpened to maximize the immune defenses. Even just telling students before taking a test that test anxiety is beneficial can improve scores.
Factors that lengthen the no/low stress resting zone
- social support
To reduce bad stress,
- I do my best
- I am not too hard (or easy) on myself
- I am not too hard (or easy) on others
- I make time for a stress-reducing lifestyle and activities
- I find and give genuine support
- I do what I can
- I don't stress about stress — it might not kill me.
By definition, people who are stressed don't have a lot of time.
Types of stressors
- If someone cuts me off, I can forgive and let go of it right away. I don't let it build or affect my day or week.
- Work or projects need attention or fixes. I can't simply let them go, but instead give them a good effort. Take adequate breaks between such stressors.
- Illness (self or family) is very tough. I cannot control the stressors but I can control my response to them.
Factors that make up stress
- Physical stress
- Balance of positive and negative events in my life
- Connection socially and feeling a sense of meaning and purpose.
- Mind = Emotions + thought habits
Habitual thinking can be inaccurate. For greater resiliency I understand my thinking and become more accurate in my thinking. I don't overreact, and am suspicious of my default negative emotional response. I am kind to myself without guilt and I am kind to others. I get adequate sleep. I get adequate physical activity. I am honest, authentic, and genuine with myself and others.
- I want ability to control my emotional response so its in proportion
- I want ability to control my behaviors
- I want to be a good problem solver
- I want to have a realistic can do attitude (self esteem)
- I want to be realistically optimistic
- I want positive social interaction with others
- I want a willingness and ability to reach out
- I want to maximally harness the biology of good stress to promote health and well-being.
- I want to reduce and eliminate bad stress.
- I want to maximize the zone of health and healing.
- I want to take it from myself, to groups, to society as a whole.
In conclusion, I have plenty of stress, but it is not all bad and I can make it better within and without.