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Stress and Health


FROM THE MIND TO THE BODY

A paper on

Stress and Health

how it affects the body in general?, its impact on the physical body, and how to easily cope with it.

By

Dr. Mandar Rajaram Joshi

Homeopathic Physician

Mumbai, India
September 16, 2000


Abstract

Stress is one of the most common problems facing the human population today. While stress as a problem is very commonly acknowledged, it is typically not given the level of importance it should be given in order for individuals to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

This is because most people do not generally understand how stress directly and potently affects their physical well being. Along with that, most people also do not realize that there are very simple, yet very effective, ways of coping with stress.

This paper attempts to explain in a simple manner how stress directly affects the normal functioning of the various biological systems in the human body, thus emphasizing the need to effectively deal with it through very simple self-practiced techniques.

INTRODUCTION TO STRESS -

In our 10 years of homeopathic practice we have seen plenty of cases.
Being a homoeopathic physician we take a detail case history of every individual & ask several questions to the Patient.

The case history includes the patient's chief complaint for which the patient has come to us, other complaints related to the different systems of the body, the patient's physical characteristics like appearance, weight, skin condition, face peculiarities, thermal conditions.

Personal history including his appetite, thirst, likes & dislikes in food, normal discharges perspiration, stool, urine, menstruation etc. Their sexual functions, the sleep and position in sleep.

Mental make up of a person which has several dimensions like intellect, emotions and subconscious which includes childhood, schooling and adolescence phase, married life, family members and their interpersonal relationships, major/minor incidences in their life (Good or bad), suppressed desires, fears, hobbies, and their peculiar qualities, dreams and their feelings.

In children, pregnancy history of mother is very important as child may carry some of feelings which mother may have during her pregnancy period.

All these factors are very important to cause the CONSTITUTIONAL DISTURBANCES in the body. This attacks the vital force (the central governing power of a living individual i.e. Resistance power or Immune system) and causes all the disturbances in any of the systems like Digestive, Respiratory, Central Nervous, Cardiovascular and others. Thus affecting its normal functioning which settles in the body in the form of CHRONIC DISEASE.

While treating these PATIENTS (not their diseases) as a whole we found out that more than the infective agents or the organisms, the LOW RESISTANCE POWER of the Patient INVITES the infections followed by the diseases.

Human body is capable enough to fight with almost all kinds of infections & diseases on its own.

That is why a HEALTHY individual even if he is working in the hospital ward of some infectious disease like - Tuberculosis or Hepatitis does not get infected. Where a person who is living in a very healthy surrounding may also get these kind of infections if his Immunity is not strong.

Now if we try to find out the reasons of this lowered immunity we may not get any thing obvious. But the Detail case history of the Patient particularly his MENTAL background may give us a DEFINITE HISTORY of long standing STRESS.

The word STRESS means tension. But when it is used for describing the mental tension it is called as stress. Stress first affects the mind. Here it creates tightness & generates a sort of negative energy just like STEAM in an airtight vessel. This steam exerts tremendous pressure producing a TORNADO like condition in the mind.

When the mind can't tolerate this pressure it starts giving wrong signals to the body producing malfunctioning of the organs.

This malfunctioning of organs if remains for a longer time in the body can cause disturbances in the immune system producing DISEASE State in the body, which needs MEDICAL attention.

One very important thing everyone has to remember here is ones the disease sets in the body because of any stressful condition then it does not get cured without any medical attention.

Mere removal of cause (stress) does not cure the disease.

Let us see how stress can affect the body, It's parts, & it's different systems, which ultimately causes various disease conditions or otherwise aggravates their severity.

What is Stress?

Stress is the manifestation of physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. Tension is mental or emotional strain, suspense, anxiety, or excitement. Anxiety is a reaction to a real or imagined threat, a general feeling of uneasiness or dread.

Stress is not a disease but a phenomenon that is a normal part of everyoneís life. Therefore, stress, by itself, is not necessarily good or bad. Its impact, however, on the human body is very important to understand. Reactions of the human body to stress can vary considerably from person to person. When these reactions reach intolerable levels in an individual, the physical well being of the individual can be significantly affected.

The most frequent intolerable reaction to stress is the increase in the anxiety level, which, in turn, has drastic consequences on other systems in the human body.

Common Causes of Stress

- actual danger
- physical and emotional stress
- Grief (such as from death of a loved one or loss of a job)
- Phobias.
- drugs including caffeine, cold remedies (Cough/Cold Combination) antihistamines and decongestants (oral)
- bronchodilators, antidepressants
- thyroid supplements
- withdrawal from drugs
- poor diet
- Hyperthyroidism.

Common Symptoms of Stress

Stress can be recognized in one or more of the following symptoms-

- Anxiety is often accompanied by twitching or trembling
- muscle tension or fatigue,
- headaches & memory problems
- profuse sweating,
- irritability, & sexual impotence,
- sleeplessness, & nightmares,
- dryness of mouth, with thirst
- difficulty in swallowing or choking sensation
- Sudden urge for stool or urine.
- mental excitement


How it affects the body?

In this FAST MODERN LIFE people do not have time for themselves & even if they have they don't want to spend for self .
Everybody is running around to achieve, something or the other.
Yes we do agree that this is a good sign for Development, but the SPEED of that running behind this is FEARSOME.

For example : -
We set some goals in front of us.
we keep a borderline to complete it.
Then to meet that we do hard work
Imagine if some difficulty comes in between.
This disturbs our schedule & takes some extra time .
All these causes Irritability in our mind
This creates pressure in the mind .

THIS IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS STRESS.

More or less every individual gets affected with the stress. It depends on which area of him or her got affected. Depending upon the affected organ or system that particular individual suffers with the disease.

Every individual possesses his own STRENGTH & WEAKNESSES depending upon his GENETIC pattern (came from his PARENTS.) The weakness of particular organ or system is the effect of the weaker gene.

These GENES represents the physical characteristics of that individual. This is how the stress affects the weaker part of body in different individual at different times. Or same stress may affect different systems of different individuals at the same time.

 

Immunity & Diseases

The job of the immune system is -

To seek out, recognize and destroy pathogens i.e. disease-causing substances or organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. In fighting off these foreign bodies, our body produces such symptoms of illness like fever and malaise.

In most people, most of the time, the immune system does its job efficiently, but problems in its response to the environment are common. An overactive immune system, for example, results in autoimmune disorders. In these cases, for unknown reasons the immune system mistakes normal, healthy tissues for foreign invaders and attacks them.

Examples of autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Type 1 diabetes, scleroderma (skin hardening) and myasthenia gravis (destruction of muscle proteins).
People who are doing research suspect that chronic fatigue syndrome and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis may be autoimmune diseases as well.

Another type of immune error occurs when the system overreacts to something harmless, as in cases of allergies. In the case of hay fever, for example, the immune system mistakes pollen for a dangerous invader and reacts with a powerful and sometimes deadly response.

The opposite occurs when the immune system fails to respond adequately, resulting in immune deficiency diseases. AIDS is the best known example. Other immune deficiency disorders are inherited, extremely rare, and potentially fatal.

For people who are generally healthy, it's possible for the immune system to become temporarily depressed. When this happens, fighting pathogens becomes more difficult, and as a result, your body becomes more susceptible to infections, which hit you harder and stay with you longer than, they would otherwise.

Immune system disorders -

AIDS, Allergies, Arthritis, Asthma, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Diabetes, Hay Fever, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Sarcoidosis.

Symptoms -

In general, problems with immune disturbances manifest a tendency to catch colds, the flu and various other infections more frequently than usual; to get easily tired; or to develop allergies.

- 1. Burning sweat on face
- 2. Headaches - various types
- 3. Jittery, jumpy
- 4. Out of control, speedy
- 5. Compulsive disorders
- 6. Gastrointestinal upsets
- 7. Acid taste
- 8. Mucus secretions
- 9. Loss of memory
- 10. Very swollen glands
- 11. Muscle weakness
- 12. Body itchy all over
- 13. Eyes puffy, watering
- 14. Sinuses pain
- 15. Ears - painful, swollen
- 16. Swollen glands
- 17. Can not sleep
- 18. Dreams & nightmares
- 19. Clumsy, off balance
- 20. Incoherent thinking
- 21. Abnormal Cravings / hunger
- 22. Aching joints


Stress & Acute Psychosomatic Diseases -

This section describes how acute stress can impact the different biological systems of the human body.

Effects in the Brain

Following a threat, the part of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system triggers the production and release of steroid hormones (glucocorticoids), including cortisol - the primary stress hormone. Cortisol affects systems throughout the body. Catecholamines also activate an area inside the brain, which apparently triggers an emotional response to a stressful event and also signals, the brain - to store the emotionally loaded experience in long-term memory.
During a stressful event, catecholamines also suppress activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. This sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly - either to fight or to flee - in emergency situations; however, this also hinders a person's ability to handle complex social or intellectual tasks and behaviors

The Effects on the Heart, Lungs, and Blood Circulation

The heart rate and blood pressure increase instantaneously in response to stressful situations. Breathing becomes rapid and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 200% to 300%, priming the muscles, lungs, and brain for added demands. The spleen discharges red and white blood cells, allowing the blood to transport more oxygen.

The Effects in the Mouth and Throat

During stress, fluids are diverted from the mouth, causing dryness and difficulty in talking. In addition, stress can cause spasms of the throat muscles, making it difficult to swallow and also to fight infection. In some cases there is APHASIA where the patient can not talk or shout.

The Lungs & Respiratory system

Respiratory disorders like Asthma, Vasomotor Rhinitis and Hay fever are psycosomatic in nature.
1) Asthma -
The lungs may go in severe spasm in cases of patients suffering from allergic respiratory disease causing acute breathlessness. This may happen in response to acute anxiety or stress. Because of acute stress the autoimmune mechanism of the body gets activated resulting in bronchospasm in the lung alveoli to prevent the entry of the allergen in the system.
2) Vasomotor Rhinitis -
This is characterized by paroxysmal attacks of sneezing and nasal blockage.
3) Hay Fever -
It is seasonal and related with the amount of circulating pollen and chacterized by an allergic reaction to pollen by the nasal mucus membrane, conjunctiva, and mucous membrane of the pharynx and upper respiratory tract.

Effects on the Skin

Emotional states can effect the following
1) Control of vascularity of the skin
2) Control of sebaceous gland secretion
3) Control of sweat
4) Influencing of the degree of exudation
5) Influencing of the tendency of pruritis

Stress commonly results in cool, clammy sweaty skin and in a tightening of the scalp that makes the hair seem to stand on end. The skin is cool because blood flow is diverted away so it can support the heart and muscle tissues. As a result, physical capacity is increased and blood loss is reduced in the event of injury.
Urticaria with characteristic wheals and intense itching also has emotional factors as one of its cause.

Effects on Metabolism

Stress depresses digestive activity, a less essential body function during short-term periods of physical exertion or crisis.

Effects on gastrointestinal system

Excessive production of digestive acids in the stomach (hyperacidity) may cause a painful burning in the epigastric region and behind the sternum.

Anorexia Nervosa
It is a disorder usaually associated with a emotional conflict and characterized with reduced food intake leading to weight loss.

The Effects on the Immune System

The immediate effect of stress is to dampen parts of the immune system. Certain factors in the immune system - including important white blood cells - are redistributed to potentially critical areas. In the case of stress, these immune-boosting troops are sent to the body parts where injury or infection is most likely, such as the skin, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes.


Stress & Chronic Diseases -

Even in the modern world, the stress response can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events such as a sports activity, an important meeting, or in situations of actual danger or crisis. This is called as positive stress or good stress. But if the acute event is traumatic, if the body has an inefficient relaxation response, or if stress factors accumulate over time, all parts of the body like brain, heart, lungs, vessels, and muscles - become chronically over - or under activated, causing physical or psychological damage.

Psychological Effects

Stress diminishes the quality of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction Relationships are often threatened, and there is always the danger that chronic stress might develop into more serious psychological problems, such as an anxiety disorder or depression. One study suggested that stress is responsible for an increased incidence of death in widows. Suicide, accidents, or alcohol-related events were likely causes of death in these cases; men were more at risk as compared to women.

Memory & Concentration

Patients may have loss of concentration at work and at home and may become inefficient and accident-prone. Stress may play an even more important role than simple aging. If stress is chronic or extremely severe, memory loss may become permanent. Very severe and acute stress that causes post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with physical changes in the brain.

Susceptibility to Diseases

A number of studies have shown that people under chronic stress have low white blood cell counts and are vulnerable to allergic colds. In some studies, stress that had the most negative impact on resistance to infection was from interpersonal conflicts. Recent research even suggests that stress may actually be a cause of diseases such as eczema, headaches, asthma, and sinus problems.

While there is no evidence that stress causes cancer, there is some data to support the belief that emotional states influence the progression or regression of various diseases.

Heart Disease

Mental stress is as important a trigger for angina and serious cardiac events-such as heart attacks. Incidents of acute stress often precede sudden heart-related deaths.

Stress can affect the heart in several ways

Sudden stress increases the pumping action and rate of the heart and causes the arteries to constrict, thereby posing a risk for blocking blood flow to the heart. The combination of these factors also increases the risk for disturbances in cardiac rhythm.
Stress causes blood to become stickier increasing the possibility of an arterial blood clot.
Stress may signal the body to release fat into the bloodstream, raising blood-cholesterol levels, at least temporarily.
In women, chronic stress may reduce estrogen levels, which are important for cardiac health.
Sudden increases in blood pressure caused by mental stress may damage the inner lining of blood vessels, contributing to atherosclerosis.
Also increased blood levels of the adrenaline and endothelin-chemicals are known to constrict blood vessels causing high blood pressure.

Stroke

In some people prolonged or frequent mental stress causes an exaggerated increase in blood pressure. This causes thickening of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the front, half of the brain. Blockage and injury in these arteries are primary causes of stroke.

Digestion Problems

Prolonged stress can disturb the digestive system, irritating the large intestine and causing diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, and bloating.
Another digestive condition, irritable bowel syndrome does appear to be strongly related to stress.
In this condition, the large intestine becomes irritated, and its muscular contractions are spastic rather than smooth and wave like. The abdomen is bloated and the patient experiences cramping and alternating periods of constipation and diarrhoea.

Weight Problems

Stress can have varying effects on body weight. Some people suffer a loss of appetite and lose weight. Others, however, develop cravings for salt, fat, and sugar to counteract tension and, thus, may gain weight. People under stress who respond in this way are at particular risk for diabetes and heart problems.

Diabetes

Chronic stress has been associated with the development of insulin-resistance, a condition in which the body is unable to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar. Insulin-resistance is a primary factor in diabetes.

Musculoskeletal Joints

Chronic pain caused by arthritis and other conditions may be intensified by stress. Stress also causes muscle contraction headache, during which the pain is usually felt in the forehead, the back of the head and neck, or both regions.
Soreness in the shoulder or neck is common. Tension headaches can last minutes to days and may occur daily in chronic headache condition. (Migraine headaches)
Fibrisitis and muscular rheumatism are also psychosomatic in nature.

Sleep Disturbances

The tensions of unsolved stress, however, frequently cause insomnia, generally keeping the stressed person awake or causing awakening in the middle of the night or early morning.

Sexual and Reproductive Abnormalities

Stress can lead to diminish sexual desire and an inability to achieve orgasm. Men may experience erection dysfunction.
Women may develop menstrual irregularities, and stress may even affect fertility. Stress hormones also have an impact on the reproductive hormones. Severely elevated cortisol levels can even shut down menstruation.
Maternal stress during pregnancy has been linked to a 50% higher risk for miscarriage. It is also associated with lower birth weights and increased incidence of premature births - both of which are risk factors for infant mortality.
Stress may also cause physiologic alterations, unhealthy behavior - bad diet and sedentary habits - that can harm the developing fetus.

 

Relaxation techniques : -

Importance of RELAXATION


While Taking a Case History we have seen that ,In this FAST MODERN LIFE people do not have time for themselves & even if they have they don't want to spend for self .
Everybody is running around to achieve, something or the other.
Yes we do agree that this is a good sign for Development, but the SPEED of that running behind this is FEARSOME.

For example :-
We set some goals in front of us.
we keep a borderline to complete it.
Then to meet that we do hard work
Imagine if some difficulty comes in between.
This disturbs our schedule & takes some extra time .
All these causes Irritability in our mind
This creates pressure in the mind .

THIS IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS STRESS.

TO AVOID this Regular Relaxation is ESSENTIAL



There are many relaxation techniques like

- Exercise & relaxation

- Introspection

- Self Analysis & Evaluation

- Yoga

- Breathing exercises.


Learn about and try different techniques and choose one or two that work for you.


- Exercise & Relaxation -

Most of the time, we are not aware of tension in our body unless it causes headaches, muscle tightness, vomiting, diarrhea, and ulcers in more extreme situations.
An important part of recovery is becoming aware of our feelings. Our thoughts and feelings are major sources of this tension; creating tightness in neck and shoulders, the lower back, stomach, or legs and feet or anywhere in the body. However, we are not always aware of our internal state, so, another way to recognize and manage some of our internal feelings is through identifying what it feels like to be tense.

Exercise & relaxation can help us learn to recognize the tension or stress in our bodies, so we can STOP it before it becomes a major physical problem (headache, muscle tightness, etc). It helps us recognize what tension and relaxation feels like. Since we all store stress in our bodies, we can only release body tension if we are AWARE of it.

WHAT IS INTROSPECTION ?

The word Introspection means to look into yourselves.

. Many times we become aware of our stress, anxiety or anger from symptoms such as: feeling hot, sweaty, flush, increase in heart rate, or noticeable restlessness.

Thoughts and feelings which create fear can initiate the fight or flight response in all of us. A potential threat (ex: seeing a cockroch in front of you) can cause a chemical reaction in our body (release of adrenaline). The release of adrenaline can cause an immediate increase in heart rate and breathing, which then causes the release of even MORE adrenaline!

Conscious thinking of the facts with a balanced mind can really change
the perception.
Thorough ANALYSIS & EVALUATION should be done about the matters which are of importance.

We can reduce this tension by slowing our breathing down (this is in our control), which in turn slows our heart rate, which STOPS the release of our natural stimulants & bring the body into a calm state.

- SELF ANALYSIS & EVALUATION -

When we say that people don't give time to themselves it means:-

Every person is facing lots of emotional states like anger, sorrow, grief, anxiety,fear,etc.While dealing with all these for a long time He or She may get carried away with it.
This causes unilateral thinking (one side of the COIN) of the facts which creats Irritability in the mind which ultimetly reflects in TENTION or STRESS.

What we need to do is to give a break to this NEGATIVE THINKING.
Simple way todo this is--

- Take out atleast 15 to 20 minutes for yourself.
- Be alone in this time without any work or commitment.
- Sit in an open place either in balcony or in the terrace of your home.
- Calm down your body & mind.
- Try to analyse each &every thought.
- After analysing them EVALUATE your action towards it
- If you are able to locate your mistakes then except them.
- Try to improovr them next time.
- Don't repeat old mistakes

All this will happen when you will give a second thought to your actions or your thought pattern.

This is not something NEW which we are telling, 90% of you know this truth. But in this fast lifestyle we don't give sufficient time to ourselves.

-YOGA-

Regular practice of Yoga has many Advantages like:-

- Aim at better neuro- muscular co-ordination, control over the autonomic nervous system, a feeling of well-being and increase in psycho-neuro immunity.

- Refreshes the mind more effectively & brings about good effects on both the body and mind.

- Increase the tone of voluntary and involuntary muscles and improve the strength of ligaments, tendons & small internal muscles

- Increase physical functional capacity.

- Besides physical strength, help to increase stress competence.

- Control obesity.& Increase resistance to disease.

- Relaxation of muscles reduces tention in the body.

- During Yogic practices Pulse rate and blood pressure remain steady.

- Heart muscles gets massage due to the actions of the diaphragm thereby improving the tone & the function of the myocardium.

- Improve respiratory function, & autonomic balance.

.- Quick return of venous blood.improve glucose tolerance.

- Help to improove Fat Metabolism without exertion,& to reduce cholesterol

-Breathing Exercise-

Itís called PRANAYAM in YOGA.

- Inhale for 5 SLOW seconds
- HOLD IT for 5 SLOW seconds
- Exhale completely for 5 SLOW seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
Itís easy to PRACTISE because one can do this anywhere either at resting or at workplace.

If you like this Breathing exercise, it can go one more step. During the inhale, say to yourself, "I am...", and on the exhale, "relaxed..." (relaxing music can be played while you do this).
"I am.......................relaxed........................". You can repeat the breathing for as long as you wish; if done long enough, you may fall asleep.

Itís good to see how quickly PRANAYAM breathing can calm our bodies; bringing our breathing and heart rate go back to baseline.

 

An Individual Stress Management Programme


ACCEPTANCE : -(
Positive thinking)

No human is perfect, and that includes everybody. No matter what parts of yourself you may like to change, it is important to value yourself for who you are now--as a moving, changing, evolving being with very specific attributes and abilities.

Except yourself as you are & then try to improove further.

SELF ENCOURAGEMENT : -

- We all need encouragement to set goals.
- To believe that we can attain them.
- Refocus the negative to be positive.
- Talk positively to yourself.
- Plan some fun.
- Make an effort to stop negative thoughts.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY : -

- Start an individualized program of physical activity.
- Decide on a specific time, type, frequency, and level of physical activity.
- Regular workouts reduce tention from the muscles.

NUTRITION : -

- Plan to eat foods for improved health and well being.
- Take the help of Nutritionist to select healthy food choices.
- Eat an appropriate amount of food at a reasonable schedule.

SOCIAL SUPPORT : -

- Take an effort to interact socially with people
- Reach out to individuals.
- Nurture yourself and others.
- Take time for personal interests and hobbies.
- Listen to one's body.
- Take a mini retreat.
- Spend some time with your pets or loved ones.
- Listen to good Music

You can try any of these relaxation exercise if youíre feeling stress, anxiety, or anger.

TRY THESE METHODS & GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK.

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