When I started out on my integrative health and wellness journey 20 years ago, one of the first books that I read was The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton. In this book, Dr. Lipton, a cell biologist, explores how the power of the mind can have a commanding influence on your health and well-being. He explains how every thought we have, whether positive or negative, emits an energy that affects every cell and every system in our body. Everything that runs through our mind has the ability to strengthen or weaken our body.
It is no wonder that stress plays a significant role in many different diseases and disorders.
But what are we supposed to do about it? The stressors we face in the modern world are ongoing, some are worse than others, but always present. Right now we are hearing a lot about how we are living in “uncertain” times, but the truth is that life is and always has been uncertain. No one can fully control or predict what is going to happen tomorrow. However, we do have control over how we react and respond to the stress and uncertainty that challenge us every day.
Stress is often defined as anything we perceive to be a threat to our wellbeing. It is a very individual and personal experience because we all perceive things differently. Our perception is influenced by our life experiences, our current capacity to cope, our personality, and even our genes. If you perceive something as a threat that is going to cause you harm, it will trigger a stress response in your body.
However, by changing your perception and how you view the circumstance or event, can also change how your body reacts.
Here are some ways that you can reprogram your stress response:
- Change how you think about stress. When you encounter a stressful situation, you will notice that your heart rate goes up, you start to breathe harder, maybe you get butterflies in your stomach. You can view these physiologic changes as the negative signs of stress, or as a positive sign that your body is preparing you to meet the challenge that you are about to face.
- Watch your words. The words we use cue our brains and guide us on how to react. When someone asks you how you are, do you respond by using words such as busy, stressed, or tired? Those words send a message to your brain that you are…busy, tired, and stressed…and the brain and body react accordingly. Using more positive words like challenge, opportunity, or excited have a much different effect on our mindset and outlook.
- Live life in the moment. Studies show that we only spend about 10% of our energy or attention in the present moment. Nearly 50% of the time we’re worried about the future and about 40% of the time we’re still thinking about the past. The only thing you are able to take control of is the moment that you have with you right now. There is no point worrying about the past or being anxious about the future.
- Think before you respond. Try to stop and think through a bad situation before you respond. Shifting from reactive survival mode to reflective and responsive thinking that can give you the opportunity to better assess the situation and how it can be most effectively addressed.
- Pay attention to your limits. We all have a different capacity as to how much we can do and how much we can handle. It can vary from day to day, even minute to minute. When the demands on our time and energy outweigh our capacity, it can result in stress and be overwhelming.
- Center on yourself. Every day, take time to show compassion towards yourself and put yourself first. On a daily basis do at least one thing that brings you joy, lightens your load, and makes you smile.
One final thought.
A few years back I listened to a TED Talk titled “How to Make Stress your Friend” by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Dr. McGonigal referenced a study entitled “Does the perception that stress affects the health matter? The association with health and mortality.” In this study, the researchers concluded that stress itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but believing that stress is bad and harmful is the actual problem.
The researchers tracked 30,000 adults for 8 years. At the beginning of the study they asked everyone 2 questions:
• How much stress have you experienced in the last year?
• Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?
They then used public death records to find out who died.
What the researchers found was:
- People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous years, and believed that stress is harmful to their health had a 43% increased risk of premature death.
- People who experienced a lot of stress, but did not view stress as harmful, actually had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress
Their conclusion was that people didn’t necessarily die from stress, but from the belief that stress had a negative impact on their health.
So, if you think your stress is hurting your health, it’s likely it is.
We are never going to get rid of stress and there is always going to be uncertainty in life, but we can change how we think about it and how we respond to it. And when we change the way our mind perceives stress, we also change the way our body reacts to it.
is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your bone health? Contact me for a free 15 minute phone consult to learn more about the BONES Method™ and how it can help you achieve strong, healthy bones for life!