Empirical studies carried out on the incidence of stress among Nigerian workers by Olugbile, et al have shown that consistently high levels of stress in conjunction with other socio-economic factors have contributed to the declining performance and productivity of Nigerian workers. (Ref: www.projectfaculty.com) It’s been wittingly said that depression or heart attack rate is highest on a Monday morning essentially because of the anticipated work stress. A landmark 20-year study conducted by the University of London concluded that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than cigarette smoking, alcohol or high cholesterol foods. World Health Organisation also agrees that “80-90% of health challenges is preventable and accounts for approximately 90% of healthcare costs on organisations while about 95% of this is stress-related.”
An American journal of Health promotion even reported that “workers with high stress were over two times more likely to have unscheduled absences 5+ days a year” while empirical studies carried out on the incidence of stress among Nigerian workers by Olugbile, et al have also shown that consistently high levels of stress in conjunction with other socio-economic factors have contributed to the declining performance and productivity of Nigerian workers. (Ref: www.projectfaculty.com)
According to Dr Deji Osasona, Stress definitely has a strong link with illness, wellness (staying out of illness) and is key to personal productivity. Sometimes, the body’s natural harmony breaks down due to the stress posed on its natural state and we experience dis-ease (a disturbed state of balance), when we perceive and interpret events thereby sending signals to our body and thus create fatigue, mild headache, abdominal discomfort, muscle spasms, raised blood pressure, weight gain or loss, mood changes, menstrual irregularities, fading memory, etc. Fear, anxiety or worry seems to be one of life’s chief Stress triggers. Fear for instance elicits over 14,000 known biochemical reactions and about thirty (30) hormones and neurotransmitters in the human body.” (H. Dreyer- The immune power of personality, 1995). Meanwhile, whether the fear/worry is real or imagined, these chemicals are released.
“People are disturbed not by things, but by their perception of things.” – Epictetus
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment;”
95% of Dis-ease is caused by Stress and 100% of Stress is cause by a wrong belief – Bruce Lipton PHD
Stress is a matter of perception and in this article we will explore how these misperceptions lead to disease, and the science behind why this is the case.
One of the scientific fields which links stress and diseases is the Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, which is a term coined by Robert Ader in the 1970’s. PNI shows the connection between the brain and the immune system, and how they communicate with each other using various chemical messengers. PNI has shown us how stress and anxiety can influence the function of the immune system, and thus create sickness and disease. This field has helped us enter into a new understanding of human psychology and physiology and the links between stress and illness. When we take stress back to its bare bones, it can be simply defined as negative perceptions and thoughts about our situation, creating disease in our body.
Growth and protection
One of the keys to understanding why stress creates disease can be found by studying the interaction between our two main categories of survival, which are ‘growth’ and ‘protection’. When we reach adulthood, our growth processes do not halt, as we continue to replace the billions of cells that wear out in our body every day. In addition we have our protective mechanisms. These do not help us ward off threats pathogens, but also reads signals in our environments, which might suggest a threat to our safety and enables us respond accordingly.
Dr Bruce Lipton indicates that the mechanisms, which respond to growth, and the mechanism, which responds to protection cannot function optimally in our bodies at the same time. Anything that endangers us or is a threat to our survival naturally takes priority over the repair of cells, tissues and organs. We are biologically programmed to protect ourselves first and repair ourselves later. This makes perfect sense for our survival, but what if, through a myriad of false beliefs or misperceptions, we subconsciously read threatening signals from the environment that are not there? What if through our stressful and traumatic life experiences we continue to inappropriately engage our survival mechanisms and our bodies are not able to sufficiently repair?
When we grasp this notion we start to understand one of the key reasons why stress creates a disease state, and our misconceptions can leave us in a stressful state and thus a state of protection. Furthermore, when a cell perceives a threat they close down and stop detoxifying. This means the protein is not properly taken into the cells. So long term fight and flight compromises our health on a cellular level. This was revelation of a client who was very ill, she suddenly understood that because of the constant stress she had placed herself under, her distorted perception, her negative beliefs, her life traumas and so on, she was continually in a state of stress and protection instead of growth and healing. No wonder she was always sick and her body was not healing. It was ‘ONLY’ by changing her perception to her stressors, and adopting a positive belief system and releasing the energetic disruption around her life traumas, that she was able to enter a state of growth and heal her condition.
So what is stress anyway?
In recent times stress has been dubbed ‘The biggest killer of our time’. In the Genie in your Genes Dawson church illustrated the different perceptions that lead to stress: “Your system might be flooded with adrenaline because mugger is running towards you with a knife. It may also be flooded with adrenaline because a stressful change occurs at work. And it may be flooded with adrenalin in the absence of any concrete stimulus other than the thoughts about the hectic week ahead-a week that has not happened yet. You view – Perception of the world ultimately triggers the stress responses in your body.
The HPI axis
First of all, let’s take a look at what happens to our body when we get stressed. Our body responds physiologically to the stress through as system known as Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis helps regulate body temperature, digestion, mood, sexuality and energy expenditure, as well as the immune system that controls your reaction to stress and injury. The HPA axis is the brain’s pathway for hormonal control. While the immune system protects us against the external pathogens, the role of the HPI axis is to protect us from the external threats. Important to our understanding of health is that once the HPI is triggered the immune system is suppressed, so consistent triggering of the immune system is harmful to our immunity. The HPA axis triggers the fight and flight response. It is an excellent mechanism for acute stress but it is not designed to be continuously activated.
When there are no threats the HPA axis is inactive. But when the hypothalamus in the brain perceives a threat, it engages the HPA axis by sending a signal to the pituitary gland. Think of the pituitary gland as a kind of master gland. It organizes our 50 trillion cells to deal with the impending threat accordingly. It also sends message to the adrenal glands, thus stimulating our fight or flight response. In turn stress hormones are released into our blood and the blood vessel of our digestive tract are constricted, forcing blood into our arms or legs and lunching our body into action. With the blood out of our digestive system, we can no longer digest, absorb or excrete, which explains why digestive issues accompany long-term stress.
As well as adrenalin your body has another stress hormone; cortisol. After adrenalin starts to come down in the body, cortisol rises. The more times you activate adrenaline, the higher the level of cotisol will become in your body. And too much cortisol is damaging to your being. Cortisol has the same chemical precursor as dehydropiandrosterone or DHEA, and both are made in the adrenal gland, which means that while the body is making cortisol it does not make DHEA. The problem here is that DHEA is responsible for many of the health promoting and protective functions in our body. Low DHEA levels have linked to numerous diseases, while high cortisol levels increase fat, reduce memory and learning abilities and are linked with bone loss and reduced muscle mass.
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