How You React To Stress

The subject of stress can be quite confusing. It’s such a pervasive facet of our lives that it’s easy to mistake it for a natural phenomenon. But it isn’t. It’s time to add a measure of much-needed clarity to the subject. It is essential that we do not mistake the events around us as being the source of our stress. They are simply events. Nothing more and nothing less. 

It’s our conditioned reflex to our external and internal landscapes that determines whether or not we trigger the stress response. Most of us are heavily conditioned from early childhood to feel stressed under a wide variety of circumstances. Just because virtually everyone is blighted by the effects of stress and living in a world of unrelenting tension doesn’t mean that the condition is in any way normal, inevitable or untreatable. 

On the contrary, the good news is that our conditioned responses can be transformed so completely that life can rapidly become a much more profoundly enjoyable experience.  Mastery of the stress response will be one of our most important objectives. 

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to spend time in the presence of a great yoga master and experienced the extraordinary calm that surrounds their every thought and action, you’ll have witnessed an unforgettable demonstration of how powerful the natural state of calm can be. We’re so deeply conditioned to be permanently stressed that we consider this natural expression of human potential to be an anomaly! Being overstressed – that’s the anomaly.

Sources Of Stress

Stress reveals itself in many different guises, but most of us are typically conditioned to experience stress in response to four basic sources:

  • Environmental challenges:  The list is huge and includes everything around you – such as weather, pollution, noise, traffic, crowds, the daily news on TV, family, pets and colleagues.
  • Social stressors: These are the usual, unremitting demands for your time, your energy and your attention. Family, work, social interactions and all the uncertainties and unpredictable factors of human relationships.
  • Physiological factors:  Poor diet, lack of exercise, adolescence, menopause, aging, illness, injuries and the drain of poor sleep – it’s an encyclopedic list of potential problem areas.
  • The mental maze: Your conditioned mental reflexes interpret the world around you according to pre-set patterns of expectation. The limbic system has been driving our survival responses since our distant ancestors first stepped down from the trees. Very handy for dealing with a hungry saber-toothed tiger, but not very helpful in developing creative, logical alternatives to life’s challenges. That’s precisely what the more recently evolved prefrontal cortex is for and learning to engage its massive capabilities is a powerful mechanism for turning down the limbic system’s primitive fight or flight drives

Fight-Or-Flight Response

A better understanding of brain function has provided further, essential keys to explaining our behaviour and in greater depth than ever before. As you can imagine from our two million years of humanoid evolution, brain function has a long and complex history of development. 

Fortunately, the same mechanism that turns the stress response on can turn it off.  This is the extremely important relaxation response.  As soon as you realize that a situation is no longer threatening and you breathe a sigh of relief, your brain stops sending emergency signals to your brain stem, which in turn ceases to send panic messages to your nervous system.  Three minutes after you shut off the danger signals, the fight-or-flight response switches to neutral.  Your metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure all return to their normal, optimal levels of functioning.

Helping Yourself: Short-Term Stress Management Using Exercise…

  • Walking—The most common exercise for both men and women of all ages.
  • Aerobics and dance classes—Health-club workouts (and tapes for home use) are hugely popular. And of course, aerobic exercise makes your heart healthy and curbs stress-related spikes in blood pressure, say Duke University researchers. 
  • Swimming—This low-impact sport is easy on the joints as well as being very relaxing. 
  • Jogging—A popular stress antidote whether you enjoy being alone, exercising with a friend or competing. 
  • Tennis 
  • Team sports 
  • Marathons 
  • Pilates
  • Yoga 

And there are many others: biking, belly dancing, tap dancing, scrubbing, buffing, waxing, hoeing, or mowing. Or just put on the radio to music faster than your heartbeat (seventy-two beats per minute) and dance around your bedroom for twenty minutes. Remember, any sustained, rhythmic, self-regulated physical exercise not only uses up the extra adrenaline that stress stimulates, but it also increases your sense of control, distracts you from your stressors, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and leaves your muscles relaxed. And, of course, aerobic exercise also helps to keep your heart healthy and curbs stress-related spikes in blood pressure, according to Duke University researchers. The trick is to pick one—and do it!

Other Anti Stress Ideas

Competitive games like cards, backgammon, or word games; team games and activities; or individual games like jigsaw and crossword puzzles. 

If you enjoy it, and it is engrossing, it will counteract bad stress. And if you compete openly, if you give yourself the victory sign if you win and a pat on the back if you lose, if you stop pretending that nice girls don’t try, you’ll give yourself the added satisfaction of counteracting any non assertiveness training you may have picked up in the past. 

And did you know that reorganizing part of your world can also be short-term, fast stress therapy? Clean out your wallet, arrange your closet, rearrange your kitchen drawer and throw out the junk in it—bookstore browsing, listening to music slower than our heartbeat, plant pruning, carpentry, and needlepoint for mini vacations from stress. 

Stanley Fisher, in his book Discovering the Power of Self-Hypnosis, recommends that you use autohypnosis to let your body know that this is it’s time to relax. The simple steps for entering and exiting from autohypnosis are as follows: 

  • Sit comfortably in a chair facing a wall about eight feet away. Pick a spot or an object on the wall that is about one foot above your sitting eye level. This is your focal point. 
  • Look at your focal point, and begin counting backward from 100, one number for each breath you exhale. 
  • As you count and continue to concentrate on your focal point, imagine yourself floating, floating down, down through the chair, very relaxed. 
  • As you stare at your focal point you will find that your eyelids feel heavier and begin to blink. When this happens, just let your eyes slowly close. 
  • While your eyes are closed continue to count backward, one number for each time you exhale. As you count, imagine how it would feel to be as limp as a rag doll, totally relaxed and floating in a safe, comfortable space. This is your space. 
  • As that safe, comfortable feeling flows over you, you can stop counting and just float. 
  • If any disturbing thought enters your space, just let it flow out again; continue to feel safe and relaxed.
  • When you’re ready to come out of autohypnosis, either let yourself drift off to sleep, or count from one to three and exit using the following steps. At one, let yourself get ready; at two, take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds; and at three exhale and open your eyes slowly. As you open your eyes, continue to hold on to that relaxed, comfortable feeling. 

You can also counteract tension with progressive relaxation. Some of my patients listen to a guided meditation or relaxation audio. 

  • Starting with your toes, relax them
  • Then the feet and ankles: relax
  • Then the calves: relax
  • The knees: relax
  • The thighs: relax
  • The buttocks: relax
  • The abdomen and stomach: relax
  • The back and shoulders: relax
  • The hands: relax
  • The forearms: relax
  • The upper arms: relax
  • The neck: relax
  • The face: relax
  • Drift off

Researchers have been looking at the relationship between stress and disease for over a hundred years.  They have observed and concluded that people suffering from stress-related disorders tend to show hyperactivity in a particular “preferred system,” or “stress-prone system,” such as the skeletomuscular, cardiovascular, or gastrointestinal system.  For example, chronic stress can result in muscle tension and fatigue in some people.  For others, it can contribute to high blood pressure, migraine headaches, ulcers, or chronic diarrhea.

Almost every system in the body can be damaged by stress.  When an increase in corticoids suppresses the reproductive system, this can cause amenorrhea and failure to ovulate in women, impotency in men, and loss of libido in both.  

Stress-triggered changes in the lungs increase the symptoms of asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.  Loss in insulin during the stress response may be a factor in the onset of adult diabetes.  Stress suspends the body’s tissue repair mechanism which, in turn, causes decalcification of the bones, osteoporosis, and susceptibility to fractures.  

The inhibition of immune and inflammatory systems makes you more susceptible to colds and flu and can exacerbate some specific diseases such as cancer and AIDS.  In addition, a prolonged stress response can worsen conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, and diabetes.  There are also some indications that the continued release and depletion of norepinephrine during a state of chronic stress can contribute to depression and anxiety.

The relationship between chronic stress, disease, and aging is another fascinating area of research.  Experts in aging are examining changing patterns of disease and the increased appearance of degenerative disorders.  

Over just a few generations, the threat of infectious diseases such as typhoid, pneumonia, and polio has been replaced with such “modern plagues” as cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, respiratory disorders like asthma and emphysema, and a pervasive incidence of depression.  As you age normally, you expect a natural slowing down of your body’s functioning.  But many of these mid- to late-life disorders are stress-sensitive diseases.  

Currently, researchers and clinicians are asking how stress accelerates the aging process and what can be done to counteract these pernicious and debilitating products of an over-stressed lifetime of worry and prolonged anxiety.

Check out these events and create your own schedule of recent stress experiences!


The higher your total score, the greater your risk of developing stress-related symptoms or illnesses.  Of those with a score of over 100 for the past year, almost 80 percent will get sick in the near future; of those with a score of 50-100, about 50 percent will get sick in the near future; and of those with a score of 15-50, only about 30 percent will get sick in the near future.  A score of less than 15 indicates that you have a low chance of becoming ill.  So, the higher your score, the harder you should work to stay well.

Because individuals vary in their perception of a given life event as well as in their ability to adapt to change, we recommend that you use this standardized test only as a rough predictor of your increased risk.

Stress can be cumulative.  Events from two years ago may still be affecting you now.  If you think that past events may be a factor for you, repeat this test for the events of the preceding year and compare your scores.

Tactics For Coping With Stress

Here are some ways you can use the Schedule of Recent Experience to maintain your health and prevent illness.  You can use the list to:

  • Remind yourself of the amount of change that has happened to you by posting the Schedule of Recent Experience where you and your family can see it easily.
  • Think about the personal meaning of each change that’s taken place for you and try to identify some of the feelings you experienced.
  • Think about ways that you can best adjust to each change.
  • Take your time when making decisions.
  • Try to anticipate life changes and plan for them well.
  • Pace yourself.  Don’t rush.  It will get done.
  • Take time to appreciate your successes, and relax.
  • Be compassionate and patient with yourself.  It is not uncommon for people to become overwhelmed by all the stresses in their lives.  It takes a while to put into effect coping strategies to deal with stress.
  • Acknowledge what you can control and what you cannot control and, when possible, choose which changes you take on.

In order to ensure  that you use the natural medicines correctly, we recommend the following supplements that correspond with your level of concern mentioned in your health.

Level 1.No real concern, there is only a need to maintain.

Level 2. Concern and symptom needing solutions 

Level 3. Severe symptoms and some real concerns needing solutions

Level 4. Sever symptoms and serious concerns
(We can provide you with a specialized online functional medicine consultation)