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Grab Your Stress by Horns
Making Stress a Habit
"If you want to escape things that harass you, what you are needing is not to be in a different place, but to be a different person". ---- Seneca
More or less we all possess some common-sense knowledge about different causes of our getting sick, right? But then, it might do us some good to start questioning how much---or how little--- that knowledge is being used in our everyday practice of living.
What I am about to address here has nothing to do with germs, bad eating habits, or a harmful life style---but rather about that much neglected, while possibly most detrimental factor in our health problems---stress.
There is a rapidly increasing evidence in the medical science about stress being the culprit behind just about anything that could make us sick---for the simple fact that it weakens our immune system which would normally ward off any sickness.
Indeed, folks, barring accidents, wars, and natural disasters our bodies would stay close to its mint condition, even with less than optimal other healthy habits---providing that we adopt some practices of a good stress management.
Whether we are aware of it or not, over a time being stressed out becomes just as much of a habit as smoking, nail biting, procrastination, or anything else that we may feel compelled to do---physically or mentally.
So, when we collectively contend that "life is stressful", a huge part of it doesn't really mean some objective stressors, but rather our habitual converting otherwise manageable situations into stressful ones, without our knowing it.
Now, why did we allow stress to become habitual? For, all along it was a common knowledge that stress was bad for us, and yet we took it lightly, as if those "better" moments of our daily experiencing were somehow going to neutralize the effects of that accumulated stress.
Maybe a brandy after work, an encouraging coffee in the morning to help us face the world, sex, or anything in our stress reducing arsenal---seemed to be enough to put our nerves back in a state of equilibrium.
But was it?
Not Impressed Enough
"After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting." ----Chuck Palahniuk
When we first heard that ingesting something like cyanide would kill us instantly, we didn't say: "Yeah, I don't believe it until I try it". But when we heard that stress is making us sick, making us age prematurely and inviting an early grave, how seriously did we take it?
We didn't. Why?
Because the good doctor never scared us enough with it. You see, we are strange creatures, we need to be told by somebody of an authority what is likely to make our precious asses sick. We simply don't get reminded enough, scared enough, warned enough, pushed enough into recognizing stressors of our life and developing a thicker skin.
Just because stress is not usually causing us to drop dead like with ingestion of cyanide, we take it lightly---instead with a well practiced "mental diet" which would forbid our minds to "ingest" all that stressful crap of modern living.
To so many of us, it has become a conscious or only an unconscious motto: "What may go wrong".
We allow our imagination to turn into our accomplices in a mental crime of self-tormenting with visions of all kinds of bad outcomes, and have become so proficient at doing it that our doctor's office and hospitals are full of people sick from stress-related crap.
Anything from a cold to a high blood pressure, to a heart disease, to diabetes-2, possibly all the way to some fatal crap may befall us---while no one ever connected it to our bad stress management.
They will tell us what to eat and what to avoid eating; they will prescribe meds and drag us through treatments and therapies---because after all, there is no business like health business---but they won't tell us to just lighten up a little, have enough rest, maybe meditate.
But before anything else---they won't impress us enough about the size of the risk of not following a mental diet consisting of one single ingredient---letting go more.
A Part of Our Cultural Paradigm
"Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects." ---- Arnold H. Glasow
People don't think about it. They don't realize how not seeing mother-in-law at Sunday dinner doesn't necessarily mean that they are relaxed. They got so used to a certain level of constant stress that they don't even register it as such.
On a scale from one to ten, their tension could read about five while they are watching a nice TV movie with family. And that reading could go down to about three or four while they are asleep. So many wake up tired, because they don't practice unwinding with letting go of all thoughts about injustices at job, finances, politics, whatever.
Letting go is a mental skill just like driving a car or ability to read and write. Yes, before it had to become a cultivated skill, it was something we were born with, but in those formative years our primary caretakers quickly did their best to make us snap out of that ease with all those "don'ts", "shoulds", "musts", "beware's"--- that crush course of making us ready for a stressful life ahead.
Life skills should have included a good measure of a balanced expenditure of nervous energy with a trained eye for those things which are up to us to handle and those that are out of our control.
However, since mostly everybody is enmeshed in the game of producing stress, it's a part of our cultural paradigm to take stress as a given in these turbulent times.
Of course, we are smart enough to send man to the moon, but not smart enough to make it a public imperative to everyone to adopt some sound measures of personal and collective stress management.
No one of a higher authority would bother to spoil that blooming business of medicine and Big Pharma by reducing the number of their customers.
Sickness by Order
"Calm mind brings strength and confidence, so that's' very important for good health." ---- Dalai Lama
Now, let's bring into our picture yet another psychological aspect of stress compromising our health---"unconscious payoffs of getting sick". Who knows, maybe there is a hidden eye-opener of a kind in it.
Unconscious payoffs in getting sick---sounds like there are people who are "planning" their sickness. Yes, that's the message, and I hope you will give the word "unconscious" its due importance.
Nobody consciously invites pain and bad health. But, some over ninety percent of our mental activities are below the threshold of our awareness, and we just have to accept that so much is cooking in there that we don't know about. There is an enormous dynamics going on which would literary drive us insane if all of it passed that censor between unconscious and conscious which is sparing us from it.
Every second our brain is processing some 400 billion pieces of information, and we are aware only about some 2000. So many unconscious reactions to life are taking place that we don't have a slightest idea about. Those reactions get computed between our belief system and our innate and acquired strategies for psycho-physical survival---all unconscious works.
Thus, there is a little wonder that some folks may unconsciously produce a defensive strategy to something unfavorable without being aware of it. Let's say a neglected and not appreciated wife and mother may resort to getting sick, because only her sickness may get her some attention, compassion, and support in the house.
Pains in neck, lower back, and pinched sciatic nerve are classic in the garden variety of conditions unconsciously chosen by the body---but let us not fool ourselves there about some "passing conditions", as some people may get seriously sick by a recurring negative treatment at home, on the job, and in a way it emotionally matters to them a lot.
Calm After Facing Source of Our Stress
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." ---- William James
Other cases of unconscious deciding to be sick may involve those folks who don't feel mentally up to the challenges and demands of adult life---I call that a "wooden leg syndrome".
Some folks resort to this reduced functioning while unconsciously terrified by prospects of having to rely on their own resources and efforts, so their bodies cater to that strong inner resolve to be helped by others.
Let me emphasize that not all cases of woman's inability to get pregnant are psychogene, but some of them do unconsciously make themselves resistant to pregnancy---even if they consciously want to have a family. It could be a deep aversion against motherhood that computed itself in her mind from any possible sources that she is not aware of.
There are so many possible reasons why someone may resort to sickness, condition or a physical sensitivity. Even those cases of lazy mentalities, where a person may unconsciously make themselves accident prone just to avoid as much of their duties as possible.
I have personally seen such types who were either over-sensitive to everything including weather, or we could see them once with an extremity in cast, or neck in whiplash collar, or bandages anywhere.
Are any of these varieties to be blamed? No, because again they don't know what they are doing. But, instead of blaming, we could examine our own possible contribution to their decision to be sick, and do something about it.
Whether we are talking about those innocently ignorant folks who don't see enough of a threat in their excessively stressed reacting to life---or these ones who feel driven into sickness as the last straw, we can examine the nature of our own possible not functioning at optimal health.
For there is so much we can do---once that we know that it's doable even if not common.