Without a doubt, stress is the mark of our times. Every aspect of our lives is determined by this Zeitgeist in such a way, that we regard it as a law of nature. Although, what we call hard circumstance and inherent necessity is in fact a creation of ourselves, and as such it basically can be changed according to our intentions. Can stress affect you? Of course, more than you think. That’s why you have to take control in your life.
The Cost of Stress
In Switzerland alone, the cost of stress for the national economy amounts to more than $4,5 billions per year. If one takes into account all the hidden costs, it’s even more. The same thing is true for health care in all the western countries. The system we rely upon has reached its limits long ago. As a result, we loose the characteristics of our humanity, we loose the stripes that turn us into the person we’re meant to be.
My conclusion: stress is a symptom of the fact that one isn’t living in the flow.
What is Stress?
Primarily it’s important to understand that stress, used in a negative sense, is always a personal and therefore subjective assessment. It’s the way you look at the challenges you face or want to face. In that sense, stress can be the result of excessive demands as well as too little challenges.
Stress can be described with three steps: 1) There’s a stimulus, an impulse from the outside or from the inside, for examplee somebody is yelling at you or a memory is torturing you. 2) The stimulus is followed by a response depending on your constitution. 3) In case there’s no gap of freedom in between, you’re faced with an overload.
Autonomous Types of Response
Imagine what it was like 10’000 years ago, when you could run into a sabre-toothed tiger anytime. Out of fear, you had to be enormously vigilant. As a protective program, still working today in our genes, we have three autonomous responses at our disposal. However, the decision which one of these will be setting in, is not a conscious one. You’re at the mercy of a powerful mechanism that commands:
Every time this autonomous appraisal of a situation signals danger, you have to submit to any of the three programs. Now you realize that it’s going to be a huge problem if you have several incidents a day like that. After each time your body and soul need a major pause, in order to reestablish the original balance, called homeostasis. However, instead of 5 to 7 incidents a weak – which is within a feasible range – we experience almost the same amount every day.
Consequences of Being Stressed Out
Physiologically speeking, the levels of the neurotransmitters adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol rise up critically and run the risk to stay in the red zone, as if an alarm is going off all the time. Once you’re permanently in this state of emergency really bad things are happening, first and foremost:
- The immune system is turned down drastically → sickness (from cold to cancer)
- The prefrontal cortex is shut down → can’t think clear anymore (tunnel vision)
You loose your full potential physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The Signs of Stress
The Vicious Circle of Stress
Here we’ve reached a crucial point that very quickly leads into a vicious circle. Once your system is out of balance, every endeavor being made under stress to change something is without success. On the contrary, the effect is quit the opposite. It’s like trying to force yourself when you can’t fall asleep. That makes the whole situation worse.
So we have to look even closer now, if we want to find the magic turning point. We have to penetrate to the core of this problem wholeheartedly examining the emotions (see the book review The Instinct to Heal by David Servan-Schreiber) – we have to look for change by heart.