Most of us know that emotional stress is a major cause in bringing your immune system—and general health—down. We also know that stress for most of us is unavoidable. Short bursts of physical, chemical or emotional stress will probably do little harm to our health if we can learn from the events and develop resilient life skills to effectively cope with the particular situations.
There is a biological theory called hormesis which indicates that low dose, short term exposure to ‘toxins’ (such as in medicines we take) can be beneficial for our health. It is argued that the immune system is a hormetic system, in which the stresses are the antigens.
This understanding underlies the principle of vaccination, which temporarily alerts the immune system to act more quickly to foreign agents such as infectious viruses. As with other hormetic phenomena, the dose and virulence of the antigen is critical. If it is too toxic or there is too much of it, the immune system will be overwhelmed. Also, if the immune system cannot completely identify and deal with the antigen, and it is constantly in contact with the immune system, such as long-term exposure to chemicals or microbes, the immune system will consistently use extra resources to control the chemical or pathogen in, whats known as an acclimatisation response.
This can also be applied to emotional stress. If the stress is within our coping capacity through our current life skills, it will do little harm to our mental and physical health as we acclimatise to the situations.
However if it is beyond our coping skills, our bodies can have problems. The stress hormone cortisol is a stressor chemical that gives us an edge when we are presented with a physical ‘fight or flight’ response. Of course, if we run or fight (and survive) the cortisol stimulation stops, and if we learn from the situation, our body does not have to use this ‘toxic’ chemical in similar situations in the future. Unfortunately, from a biological perspective, the ways we are forced to live in this overpopulated world with its necessary laws and systems to keep us ‘safe’, can also expose us to situations beyond our coping skills.
Things that are mostly in our capacity to cope with, such as exams, work presentations, competitions etc, simply give us a stimulus to perform at a higher level. Yet some of the major big stresses around our lives can overwhelm our mental and physical health. For example, being a full-time carer for a family member, or experiencing burnout from unrelenting job stress, can eventually take its toll. And then there are the more serious traumas in both childhood and adult hood including rape, abuse, domestic violence and prolonged bullying, as well as the physical and mental cruelty of wars. It takes developed character traits to grow from these experiences (refer to the life and works of Viktor Frankl as one such person who grew his character out of exposure to war cruelty).
If stress has become a ‘normal’, every day feature of your life, and you don’t have the necessary character traits to cope effectively, then the daily situations you experience can act like a slow drip of poison destroying mental and physical health, and can lead to chronic illnesses, such as autoimmune diseases and cancers.
Emotional stress does not have to always lead to ill health—if you use your stress as a source of positive fuel. To do this you need to keep a focus on developing your character from day to day. One way to do this is to see the stressful situations as an opportunity to grow, by each time coming out of a situation better than last time. This can be done either while you are in the situation, or in the lead-up to the situation or after the situation—and herein lies the real challenge, which is dedicated practice.
For many, emotional stress will weigh heavy. Some of us will polish the belief that we will never be good enough and if we keep this defining rule alive by repetitively focusing on it, we keep putting ourselves under more and more pressure. For example, we may find ourselves being drawn into an unexpected role, such as that of a caregiver, where we step up to do what is needed, with love, but because of some of the definitions we have of ourselves will pressure us to give enough to ourselves to balance out the amount of contribution we need to give as a caregiver, and thus we sacrifice ourselves in the process. During this, our understanding of what a life of quality should be, will be challenged by the subconscious rules and beliefs we have formed in our lives, and these are not appropriate for the unexpected role we have accepted—and this makes us sick.
So, what can you do to remove emotional stress? The short answer is to evolve character traits that more easily cope with the life situations to which you are being exposed. The longer answer is far more complex.
You can learn temporary lifestyle buffers, such as using natural medicines, or self therapies such as yoga, to help you cope. You can change your diet to reduce your fructose intake which will allow your brain to function better and then you will cope better. You can reduce the chemical and pathogen load on your immune system. However all these will not directly change your character—which requires that you interact with that other facet of your mind which evolved your limiting character traits in the first place. ‘Know Thyself’ is a time-honored dictum, steeped in quiet practice and social application.
The techniques of raja yoga have been used for millennia to evolve higher-purpose character traits. The mental focus with accompanying breathing exercises, are part of the practice and discipline to evolve higher purpose character traits. The results are always breathtaking.
Through our Programs you can learn some key concepts from Raja Yoga that will allow you a glimpse the potential of your wonderful, and powerful mind when it is in union (yoga).
Contact us for a no obligation, chat to see how our Programs can help you turn your health around and ..keep it.