Your body is always striving for growth and survival. Actually, it would be more accurate to say growth or survival. When you are stressed, your body reacts as if you are really in danger. As a result, it will turn off the growth in favor of survival. You may not realize how important growth is for your survival. Every day billions of cells in your body wear out and have to be replaced. To accomplish this, your body needs significant amounts of energy. In response to a threat, real or imagined, your body will turn off its growth mechanism in favor of its survival mechanism. It cannot do both at the same time. When you are stressed, your body diverts energy from your tissues and vital organs. The longer you stay in the protection mode (stressed), the more you consume energy reserves which are needed for growth. As soon as you feel stress, your adrenal glands secrete “stress hormones”, which immediately constrict the digestive tract and force life sustaining blood into your arms and legs, so you can fight off or run from the impending threat. Before this stress happened, your blood was being supplied to your vital organs, and now, with a lack of blood to nourish them due to the stress, these vital organs are unable to engage in growth related functions.
The immune system also needs energy. Just think about your energy levels when your immune system is fighting off a cold or the flu. Well…when you are stressed, the energy that should be supplied to your immune system is being diverted to deal with this impending danger. Did you know that stress hormones are so effective at suppressing the immune system that doctors sometimes give them to transplant recipients so their immune systems won’t reject the foreign tissue?
When you release stress hormones; your ability to think clearly is compromised. Your conscious mind is significantly slower than your subconscious mind. Your body knows that in an emergency, the faster the processing, the better your chances of survival, so your adrenal stress hormones suppress blood flow to your reasoning conscious mind, in favor of your subconscious mind’s life sustaining reflexive actions.
This makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. If you are walking down a path while you are fighting off an infection, and a lion jumps in front of you, all of your energy will go into the process that makes you run away, before you even know why. There will be no energy to fight the infection, because what good will it do to fight the infection if the lion eats you? Same with growth…no need for growth if you will not live to see tomorrow’s sunrise, right? But in modern society, when you are stressed on a regular basis as if a lion is about to eat you, well…you get the point.
In a study published in 2003 in Science magazine, researchers looked into why people on anti-depressants had a two week delay in feeling better, which wouldn’t be the case if the depression was caused by a chemical imbalance. They realized that the inhibition of neuronal growth by stress hormones was the reason for the depression. In fact, medical studies have shown that almost every major illness has been linked to chronic stress.
Maybe it’s time for you to examine what your stressors are. What is stressing you? Where did it come from? Is it real? Is it contributing any value at all to your life?
Thankfully, not all 50 trillion of your cells have to be in one mode or the other. You can survive while under stress, but, as you now know; chronic stress will compromise your vitality. For true vitality and abundance, we need to not only avoid stress, but we also need to actively seek out fulfilling, loving, and joyful lives, which will result in truly enjoying all the benefits of emotional fitness.
There is a growing body of proof indicating that exercise may improve immune function, help lower blood pressure, boost mood, and reduce stress and depression. And when we prescribe exercise as a medicine, there are no harmful side effects or downsides. Countless studies support a long held theory that exercise triggers an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals that make you feel good, distract you from pain, and deliver many other health benefits.
So…you have a choice…to release harmful chemicals into your body (poison), or to release good chemicals into your body (fountain of youth). Next time you decide to get mad, stressed, unhappy, frustrated, disappointed, angry, etc., please do not blame any other person or situation…it is your choice. Always has been, always will be. Instead, wouldn’t it be a better choice to drop by Point Loma Sports Club for a stress releasing, energizing workout? You will feel better, live longer, look better, and have better relationships. Try it…what have you got to lose.