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Worry and Anxiousness

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If Worry and Anxiousness are not kept under control - Debilitating Stress is the ultimate result

A recent article by John-Roger (see www.msia.org) about being part of the solution rather than the problem, when dealing with anxiety and stress, sets the stage for this topic.  The article commenced:-

"In today's world, high stress levels and violence are a big part of today's conversation.  Everywhere we look, it seems there's another story about stress in the job, road rage, global warfare, or economic concerns.  Yet these are not what most people really want in their lives or in the world.  I often talk with friends and family about how to approach life with peace and calm.  When life seems out of control, we need to identify ways to take care of ourselves and support ourselves.  When we are supporting ourselves, we can become part of the solution in any situation we face rather than 'exploding' and being part of the problem."

Isn't life full of coincidence? (God's way of remaining anonymous!).  Here's a recent one in my experience. To address the issue of stress in society which, as we know, leads to many stress-related illness - even stress related cancer - I was pondering on how to introduce my Active Meditation CD - Overcoming Worry and Anxiousness when I spied an article appeared in Tempo, by Greg McKenzie titled "Letting Go Of Stress".  The author quotes some interviews with experts which are absolutely perfect for explaining stress comes from anxiety.

The analytical side of me always wants to know why things work the way they do ... and yet I also subscribe to:-

"when something works for you - do more of it and the corollary ... if it doesn't work for you, then do less of it."
This statement reminds me of an interesting definition: Insanity is
"Keep on doing the same thing and expect a different result".
(This is particularly apt when applied to bad habits). Continuing to worry and remain stressed and not do anything about it, can in itself become a bad habit.  I have done some more research, which, together with some quotes from the Tempo Article can provide a greater understanding into worry and stress. In this way, I can be, and I'm hoping you can be, part of the solution to this ever present issue.

Stress Hormones Suppress The Immune System

Much of my work is in the area of psycho-neuro-immunology ("psycho" for brain, "neuro" for nervous system, and "immunology" for theimmune system. This is the field of study that aims to map the pathways that stress follows in the body, find the causes, and suggest ways to minimise them.

What is important is that immune cells are in our blood and so contact all the cells in our body.  Their job is to keep us healthy by attacking the enemies in our body like cancerous cells and bad bacteria or viruses.  What's this to do with stress?  When we are stressed our adrenal glands actually pump out the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and these hormones suppress the immune system as well as raise our heart rate and increase our blood pressure.

Daniela Guidara, a psychologist at the Centre for Stress Management and Research at Monash University, says we can't remain stressed for long without paying the price. "If we keep the stress response running, we'll become unwell.  Illness stems from a breakdown in the immune system and we can develop a range of things, from tension headaches and stomach problems to sleep and skin disorders."

These afflictions lie in wait, says Guidara, which is why we often get sick when we take holidays.  "It can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months for some disorders to manifest themselves, so people need to be careful once the stress passes, because that's when illness can strike."  From Tempo Article.

Science Today Tells Us That Stress Is Cumulative    [ top ]

If we don't manage our stress levels, releasing stress as we progress through life, then the immune system is suppressed, damaging tissues and organs which can influence our risk of dying through cancer and heart disease.  And all this can be caused through anxiety and worry from daily living, so it's as well to know about it.

I can hear some people saying "... but I am more productive under stress", and "We need stress hormones (cortisol) to get out of bed in the morning" (cortisol takes over from the sleep hormone, melatonin).  When I commanded the Officer Cadet Training Unit and the University of NSW Regiment in my Army Reserve days, our main function was to produce Officers for the Army Reserve.  Part of my deliberate policy was to ensure that the trainees could operate under stress - battle is stressful - so the trainees had to battle lack of sleep, long distances, changes of plans which produced frustration, jungle, darkness and more, before they were actually tested in platoon attacks, defence, withdrawal, and patrolling; but worry and anxiety have no part here. Can you operate under stress? Yes of course - some better than others, and ....we must also know how to get rid of it!  Stemming from the research of Vietnam Veterans we now know that if stress and trauma are not handled soon after the "incident" then that can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"We need [stress hormones] to survive; they protect us," says Dr Bruce McEwen from New York's Rockefeller University.  "But at the same time we need to manage their secretion so that when we don't need them, we turn them off.  If they become active when we're sitting at home after a day's work and we still feel stressed, that's when they can begin to cause problems."  From Tempo Article.

Some More Science    [ top ]

Australian scientists have proved what many people have suspected for years: stress makes you sick.

Researchers at Sydney's Garvan Institute have discovered how a hormone known as neuropeptide Y (NPY), often released during times of stress, can prevent our immune systems from functioning properly. The institute's Associate Professors Fabienne Mackay and Herbert Herzog said their findings, published in today's edition of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, prove a link between the brain and the immune system.

The research paves the way for understanding and preventing stress-related colds, flu, depression and even cancer, they said.

"Until now there has mostly been circumstantial evidence of a link between the brain and the immune system, but now we have that connection," Professor Mackay said.
"During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it inhibits the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens [bacteria and viruses] in the body."

The research also opens the door for new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
"This discovery will be vital in helping us develop a whole new generation of drugs that can stimulate immune defences in people who have high levels of stress," Professor Mackay said.

Under extreme periods of stress, the NPY hormone can also prevent our good TH1 cells [also known as "helper" cells] from attacking bacteria and viruses, she said.
Professor Mackay said exploiting this TH1 inhibitory mechanism to prevent immune responses getting out of control would be essential in responding to diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, type 1 diabetes and lupus.

She was quick to point out, however, that proper medication could take years to develop and there was a lot more to understand about stress and its effect on the immune system.
"In the meantime, it is important that we understand how bad stress is for all of us," Professor Mackay said.
"The best thing to do is to remove stress from our lives just by reorganising the way we live, changing our lifestyle and using things like yoga and relaxation to the best of our ability.
"That stress makes you sick is no longer a myth, it is a reality and we need to take it seriously."

If you would like to read the source and the Full Text you will find it in the Journal of Experimental Medicine 5 Dec 2005  www.jem.org titled NPY's mixed messages with the abstract at Abstract 202 11 1527

The Value Of Meditation    [ top ]

I'm sure we all know the value of exercise as a "Stress Buster".  Many people handle their worry and stress by jogging, walking and sport.  What exercise does is to secrete endorphins - the "feel good" hormones.  Experts tell us that exercise alone is not enough.

I urge you to examine your life and the way stress is caused for you.  Find the causes! Even the way you talk to yourself can cause stress.  Negative self talk can have a major impact on self esteem and self confidence.  It can lead to depression.  So become aware of your reactions.  You can choose to respond and thus become part of the solution.

Writing in May 2003 New Scientist, Professor Owen Flanagan, Professor of Philosophy at Duke  University, North Carolina, has shown that Buddhists who meditate appear to be able to stimulate the left pre-frontal lobe - an area just behind the forehead - which indicates positive emotions and good mood - genuine happiness.  Professor Flanagan writes: "Anti-depressants are currently the favoured method for alleviating negative emotions but Buddhist meditational practices can lead to profound happiness."  Another Study of Buddhists done by scientists at the University of California has found that meditation might tame the amygdala, that part of the brain involved with fear and anger.

Isn't it exciting to have some potential proof, observed within the brain, about the value of meditation.

What Does It All Mean?    [ top ]

In a nutshell Worry, Anxiety and Stress Causes Disease! How does it do that? My understanding is that worry and anxiety contribute to stress.  Stress prevents the release of the 'T Helper Cells'. How can you fix it? Learn two of the Peaceful Place methods.
One is the fast 30 second method of relaxing and releasing stress so that you can release stress easily - as it happens all day long and
two is - learn to meditate.
If you are extremely stressed then you need to meditate first - before you learn the 30 second method.

I speak and write all the time about the value of meditation (The DVD of my 3 hour Active Meditation Seminar is available [ here ]).  Science has proven that the T Fighting Cells (the T Helper Cells) increase during meditation, particularly with guided imagery that uses visualisation to combat an illness in the body. Yes we can actually positively increase our immune system - today this is scientifically called psycho-neuro-immunology.  So stress decreases the Helper Cells and Meditation increases them!

Be Part Of The Solution    [ top ]

Companies, Institutions, Managers, Medical Benefit Establishments, Insurance Organisations, etc... all have their role to play in managing stress.  I am amazed that Insurance Companies still pay for "stress leave" without insisting on their client (the person taking the stress leave) doing something about their stress other than taking a break.  Do a course and learn to manage and deal with the stress.  Start to take personal responsibility.   A short break will help release stress but then when one returns to work, without any new tools, increased stress will be the inevitable result.

Of course there's always more - what we eat, for example, can stress our bodies.  My regimen for managing stress is to meditate for two hours a day in the early morning (I don't always fit it in) and to exercise for half an hour per day with light weights, following a program on video.  During the day I use a fast 30 second method to relax and focus.  At night I am in a deep sleep soon after my head hits the pillow (having "deleted" little bits of stress throughout the day).

So please be part of the solution and take care of yourself.  Examine how you get stressed and do something about it.

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