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Understanding Stress

Stress can be a blessing and a curse. Stress is a blessing when it fulfils its normal short-term biological function of putting your body in a chemical state of readiness for “fight or flight.” Fight or flight is the instinctual reaction of the body-mind to a life threatening or fear inducing situation. If I accidentally step on a snake, my instincts will immediately prepare my body for action. The fear I feel may help to save my life.

Stress is a curse when it becomes endemic to your way of life. Whenever the ego-mind believes it is unable to respond appropriately to a situation or threat, whether imaginary or real (by fighting or running away), it adapts to the situation by internalizing the fear. This is known as the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS). This is the source of your anxieties.

GAS is a threat to your health because the fear you have internalized puts you in a state of anxiety and triggers the body-mind to produce the chemicals that are necessary to prepare you for fight or flight. The constant production of these chemicals upsets the normal functioning of the body. As a result, if your anxiety (internalized fear) about a situation persists over a long-period of time, you develop conditions such as ulcers, diabetes, and digestive system and cardiovascular malfunctions, as well as mental illness. The workings of the adrenal gland and the immune system are also compromised. The effects of stress on your body are as follows:

  • Blood is shunted to the brain and large muscle groups, and away from extremities, skin, and organs that are not currently serving the body.
  • An area near the brain system, known as the reticular activating system, goes to work, causing a state of keen alertness as well as sharpening of hearing and vision.
  • Energy-providing compounds of glucose and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream.
  • The immune and digestive systems are temporarily shut down.

Stress can also lead to depression. Depression occurs when the fears of the ego, prevent you from meeting the needs of soul.

Fundamentally, stress is an issue of your beliefs. We get stressed when we believe that: a) we will be unable to adapt to meet the needs of a situation; b) we will be unable to meet a demand placed on us by ourselves; or c) we will be unable to meet a demand placed on us by another person. The stress becomes more acute when the other person represents an authority figure in our life—a parent or a boss.

Herbert Benson, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, is a recognised authority on mind/body medicine. Benson is best known for his work in pioneering the healing properties of the “relaxation response”—the application of meditation techniques to healing and reducing the harmful effects of stress.

Meditation is a mental discipline for achieving a deep state of relaxation where you can experience the silence of awareness without content—no thoughts, no beliefs, and therefore no personal agenda pressing onto your mind. You can stop using your mind filters to find meaning about what is going on. If you are lost, enter into the place of silence. You will find your true self in this quiet place.


 

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