The path to chronic stress relief is easier than you think
We find it incredibly stressful to write about stress because it's terribly damaging to so many people...especially now.
While we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel after a year of uncertainty, unrest and unknowns, we can't ignore that we're all still on edge right now more so than we were in Spring 2019, for example.
Let's face it. Stress happens.
But, the good news is that there are surefire, natural, stress management techniques that can reduce and even eliminate stress—even when it’s chronic.
And today we get to show you how.
A Stress Refresher
First, it's important to remember that not all stress is bad.
If you wake up one night in a smoke-filled bedroom, you’d better believe that your stress response could save your life. That kind of stress is temporary, or acute; it takes its toll, but it’s temporary and clearly worth it.
The problem is when you’re feeling stressed too often, or most of the time—worried, edgy, unhappy, angry, fearful. That’s chronic stress. And that, along with bad diet, are the two ultimate causes of just about every health problem there is.
Considering all the stress caused by living during a once-a-century global pandemic, we hope this article helps you prepare.
Believe it or no, you are your best stress reliever—and science proves it.
More and more research is proving is that your perceptions affect your health, for better or for worse.
Of course, it’s what every intuitive healer—sweat-lodger, medicine dancer, bones-tosser, potion-mixer, prayer-chanter, and touch healer has always known: your beliefs become your reality. If you believe that chant will drive evil from your soul…it can.
The key takeaway here?
Stress is caused by thought—what you think and how you perceive your current reality.
It’s your thoughts that count
That’s entirely different than symptoms caused by a detectable pathogen or other external physical cause.
This is one of the most profound findings medical science has brought us—ever. We're talking about very real physical symptoms, with no visible cause, created only by your thoughts of stress, anxiety, anger, etc. These can include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Low libido
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
But that’s only the beginning. Left unchecked, chronic stress, anxiety, and irritability can leave you vulnerable to far more serious, life-draining health problems—like these usual heavy hitters:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type II diabetes
And growing libraries full of recent medical science say so.
A Spanish study recently tested how optimism and pessimism affected participants’ responses to stress—and the role of their perceptions in their responses.
The results suggested that the optimistic participants—”the glass is half-full” people—showed:
- Significantly lower physiological stress responses than pessimistic “glass half empty” participants (e.g., lower heart rates and lower levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone)
- Significantly faster recovery from stress (as shown by heart rate and cortisol level recovery)
In addition, the pessimistic participants perceived stressful tasks to be more difficult, and requiring more effort, compared to optimistic participants’ perceptions.
Why does this work?
In short, we humans have an amazing brain.
3 R's of Stress Relief: Rethink, Revise, and Re-wire
Among the many powers our brains give us is our ability to think about what we think. It’s called metacognition.
This higher-order thinking enables us to understand, analyze, and control our cognitive processes, including our memories, without our even knowing.
Everything we experience in life is recorded in what’s called our subconscious brain. That includes what cold weather feels like, what pizza tastes like, what’s dangerous, what’s safe—everything.
In your subconscious brain, every new experience creates a new neural pathway that connects perception with emotion.
- A negative experience in the past will connect “This is a difficult moment” with “I can’t deal with this” in the present
- A positive experience will connect “This is a difficult moment” with “I can handle it.”
So if you’ve experienced “It’s half-empty” or any other pessimistic thought somewhere in your life, it’s there in your subconscious.
When confronted with a situation that stimulates that negative perception, it pops up out of your subconscious and colors your response to the moment. It happens before you even think about what you’re really dealing with in the moment.
But when your subconscious serves up that pessimistic perception, guess what?
That’s just a thought.
You can use your metacognitive skills to think about that thought—and decide to keep it or not. Most importantly, you can replace it with a new, positive thought that creates a new neural pathway in your subconscious.
The more you call up that new thought, the stronger the new pathway grows…and the old pathway finally crumbles away from neglect.
In essence, you get to re-wire your brain, a process at the heart of self-talk, which we advocate as a way to fight depression. That’s good medicine for everyone, but it is essential to those at risk for disease.
If you have a family history, for example, of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or if you have unhealthy lifestyle habits (sedentary, bad diet, socially isolated), then adding chronic stress to the mix can push you over the edge and into disease.
The good news is that power is in your hands—and your mind.
Change your mind and change your health
As always, your health is your own, and how you choose to manage it is entirely up to you. If you, your doctor, or other caregivers think your stress might be chronic, work with them to find out if it is.
If you get a “yes,” we hope you discovered a new way to deal with it.
One positive thought from your brain can tell your body to produce positive chemicals and stop producing the negative ones linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression.
And that's great news.
You don't have to be a slave to stress and the disease it can bring. Please, think it over—because that’s all it really takes.
Take good care.
- “Understand Your Stress: Acute Vs. Chronic Stress” Centre For Study On Human Stress. Published NA. Last accessed November 4, 2016.
- ” Glass half empty or half full? The answer could be related to stress reactivity in aging” Centre for Study on Human Stress. April 7, 2016. Last accessed November 4, 2016.
- Puig-Perez, Sara et al. “Optimism and pessimism are related to different components of the stress response in healthy older people.” Available online September 5, 2015. Last accessed November 4, 2016
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior” Mayo Clinic. Published NA. Last accessed November 3, 2016.
- Dispenza, Joe. “Dr Joe Dispenza- TED Talks with Dr Joe Dispenza” Feb 8, 2013. Last accessed November 5, 2016.
- Dispenza, Joe “Breaking the Hait of Being Yourself: Introdutory Lecture” November 30, 2012. Last accessed November 5, 2016.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: March 6, 2021
Originally Published: November 30, 2016